Fewer than 12 hours after beating Canisius in an elimination game, the Wisconsin Badgers were back on the field in the Gainesville Regional looking for revenge against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who had beaten them in the opening game of the regional.
Things started off wonderfully for UW as Fiona Girardot homered to left field in the first inning and Peyton Bannon, the home run hero of the Canisius game, followed suit in the second inning with a solo jack to left as well.
The Badgers were up 2-0 and ace Maddie Schwartz was cruising through four innings, having given up zero runs and one hit while only facing some difficulty due to fielding errors. Unfortunately, that all changed in the top of the fifth. The Yellow Jackets strung together seven hits (five singles and two doubles) and scored four runs to take the lead. It could’ve been worse, but the Badgers made a couple of nice throws, one from Bannon to gun down a runner at home and a nice relay from left field to third base to get the final out.
In the top of the sixth, things were no better for Schwartz who gave up a single, a walk and then recorded an out on a sac bunt (which moved the runners over to second and third) while looking absolutely gassed. Gabi Salo came in and got one out but then gave up two more runs and the Badgers had six outs left in their season and were down 6-2.
Girardot got the bottom of the sixth started off with a single and then Lauren Foster drew a walk. After Jolie Fish struck out, Bannon came through in the clutch again with a single to knock in Girardot. Skylar Sirdashney hit a sac fly and the Badgers were within two, 6-4, heading into the final inning.
Tessa Magnanimo came in to pitch the seventh and, well, she sure did make things interesting. Her inning started by issuing a leadoff walk, but then she got an out. Following a stolen base by Ga. Tech and then a single, the Yellow Jackets had first and third with one out. The next batter chopped a ball back to Magnanimo and there wasn’t a play to be made at any base, so they were loaded with, again, only one out.
The next batter fouled out to left, but it wasn’t deep enough to score a run, and that set up an epic at bat between Magnanimo and Bailee Zeitler. Magnanimo quickly went up 0-2 on Zeitler but then Zeitler fouled off eight of the next 10 pitches she faced. On pitch No. 14, Magnanimo caught Zeitler looking and struck her out to end the inning.
Wisconsin was jacked up coming off the field, but they still needed two more runs in the bottom of the seventh to extend their season. The inning started off auspiciously enough with Hubbard drawing a walk and then Morgan Kummer getting plunked.
That brought the winning run to the plate in the form of Wisconsin’s all-time home run queen, Kayla Konwent. While she didn’t clear the bases, Konwent laced a double down the left field line (and off third base’s glove) which scored Hubbard and moved Kummer to third. Up next, Girardot hit an infield single to load the bases.
With no outs on the board, the Badgers were in good shape, but still needed to score again to tie things up and, well, they didn’t even have to put the ball in play to do so. Standing on third, Kummer booked it home on a wild pitch to score the game-tying run.
Foster ended up walking in her at bat to load the bases again. Jolie Fish came up with a chance to walk things off, but struck out, and then Bannon, who had been clutch all regional came up with a chance to cement her Gainesville Legacy but...she popped out to third.
Sirdashney was up next and while extra innings were assured, the Badgers didn’t want it to go that far. After working the count to 3-1, Sirdashney took ball four and delivered the winning run via walk-off walk!
The Badgers eliminated the Yellow Jackets 7-6 and would move on to face 14-seed Florida in the regional final which, well, the less said about that game the better (the Gators won 11-0 in five innings against a clearly exhausted, both mentally and physically, Wisconsin team). I’m choosing to remember the season like this last video, an ecstatic team celebrating a huge comeback victory.
Key Wisconsin Performers
- Fiona Girardot: 3-for-3, one walk, one homer, two runs, one RBI
- Peyton Bannon: 2-for-4, one homer, one run, two RBI
- Kayla Konwent: 1-for-4, one double, one RBI, three strikeouts
- Maddie Schwartz: 5.1 innings pitched, nine hits, six earned runs, four walks, four strikeouts