With the addition of a few young guns, the D2 Badgers became a more complete team, filling much needed holes. It showed in Wisconsin’s ten games in the fall, as the Badgers dropped just two contests.
In the fall exhibition tournament in Madison, the D2 boys opened up with a disappointing loss to Marquette, a much-improved D1 squad. Wisconsin responded quickly though, dispatching Loyola 13-3. Junior Drew Rust threw three shutout innings and junior Eric Van Wazer closed the door to give the Badgers their first win of the campaign.
D2 then earned a gritty win over Northwestern, a D1 team that competed for the title in Wisconsin’s conference last season. Junior Alec Nelson and freshman Bobby Pfefferle kept the Wildcats bats in check and Wisconsin scored twice in the top of the 7th to earn the victory.
In the final game of the tournament, D2’s bats were hot and they rolled over Purdue, a D1 team that played in Wisconsin’s regional. The Badgers captured a 10-0 victory to claim third place in the tournament.
After a two-week hiatus, partly due to a series against Northern Michigan getting rained out, D2 returned to the diamond for a three-game set against DePaul. Wisconsin swept the series, winning on a walk-off single by junior center fielder Chris Trafton in the first game. The Badgers rolled in the next two, winning 9-0 and 13-3.
To wrap up the fall, Wisconsin had the challenge of a tripleheader with arch-rival Winona State. Winona State beat Wisconsin two out of three games the past two years to win the conference. But this year, the Badgers prevailed, winning the first two games of the tripleheader to claim the series.
In the first, senior Andrew Wolfe threw five shutout innings and struck out six, while allowing just two hits to pick up the victory. Freshman Ryan Molini shut the door.
Senior DH Tony DeBartolo got the party started early, singling home sophomore shortstop Tyler Behle. Sophomore second baseman Jake Gain provided the big blow, crushing a home run to left-field that scored junior catcher Bobby Ehrlich. Wisconsin would go on to win 5-0.
In the second game, Nelson, Pfefferle and sophomore Colin Schrof allowed just one hit to Winona State to give the Badgers a 3-1 victory. Wisconsin scored three runs in the third thanks to RBI singles by Trafton, DeBartolo and sophomore left fielder Jacob Budnik. Wisconsin survived several threats from Winona State to hang on and win the series.
The bats went cold in the third game of the day and fatigue caught up to the Badgers as they dropped the final game 8-2. But with the series win, the Badgers jumped in the drivers’ seat in the conference and will control their own destiny in the spring.