Morgan Kummer (#4), Ally Miklesh (#13) and Fiona Girardot (#10) of the Wisconsin softball get hyped up behind the plate after scoring runs for the Badgers. Photo courtesy of Morgan Kummer
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Ellsworth’s Morgan Kummer finds ‘second home with Wisconsin Badgers’ softball program

‘In my dream scenario, it would have always been Wisconsin’

By Reagan Hoverman

Morgan Kummer, a 2018 Ellsworth High School graduate, found her ‘second home’ with the Wisconsin Badgers’ softball team after trans ferring to Madison for her sophomore year of college in 2020 and has thrived in the program since then.

Years before Kummer was an impactful player on the Wisconsin Badgers’ roster, she was in a purple Ellsworth uniform tearing up oppos ing pitching staffs in the Middle Border Confer ence during her senior campaign in 2018.

Her high school softball accolades in Ellsworth are unmatched. In 2018 she was Mid dle Border Conference Player of the Year, was an All Conference player or honorable mention in all four years of high school and led the charge in rebuilding an Ellsworth softball pro gram that had struggled for nearly two decades before Kummer stepped foot on the diamond.

In her junior season, Kummer led the Pan thers to a 17 6 overall record, a share of the Middle Border Conference championship, Ellsworth’s first in more than 20 years, and an appearance in the regional final game. In her senior season, she helped the Panthers finish with a 14 5 record, won a regional champi onship and made an appearance in the sectional semi final game.

“That senior season was so much fun,” Kum mer said. “At that time, I was already committed to play softball in college. For a lot of people, their senior season in softball is the last time they play sports, but I had the opportunity to continue for the next couple of years. For me, it was a lot more fun and lighthearted than I think it is for a lot of seniors.”

For Kummer, that group of girls was special. Not just because they had talent on the roster from top to bottom, but because her sister, Clar ity Kummer, was a sophomore on the team at that time.

“It was so much fun having my younger sis ter there,” Kummer said. “We had really good girls on the team at the time, we did really well as a team, and I did well personally too. My focus was going out there, having fun and hit ting some dingers,” she said while laughing.

Kummer led the Panthers in every major sta tistical category throughout her senior season. She batted .733 at the plate, led the team in hits with 44, led the team in home runs with nine, six more than the second best on the team, and had an OPS for the season of 1.385.

To put that figure into context, although it’s a small sample size of only one season, the MLB leader for career OPS is Babe Ruth with 1.1636. Posting numbers like that, there’s no surprise that Kummer received offers to play at the col legiate level well before her senior season in 2018.

Although lots of major college softball pro grams were recruiting Kummer during her high school years, Wisconsin wasn’t one of them. Be cause of that, she waited a bit longer to commit to a school to keep her options open.

“I committed a little bit later in the winter of my junior year to play at George Washington University out in Washington D.C.,” Kummer said. “I owe a lot to my club organizations for getting me to where I am. I played with them for years from middle school into my high school years. I wanted to compete with some of the best girls in the country.”

During her junior year of high school, one of Kummer’s club softball coaches connected her with George Washington University. Kummer spoke about the recruiting process and how she decided to move out east for her first year of col lege.

“When I realized that the Big Ten wasn’t going to offer me anything outside of high school, I wanted to take a leap of faith,” Kum mer said. “I wanted to go big and somewhere far. I knew that I could always come back to Wisconsin or the Midwest, so why not venture out?”

A couple of weeks after being made aware of the school, Kummer flew out and attended a softball camp and met with the coaching staff at George Washington University to get a feel for the program and get additional information.

“I flew out there for one of their camps,” Kummer said. “I went to the camp and at the conclusion, they made an offer to me. That was really cool because it happened quickly. Within the week I had verbally committed there.”

When Kummer got to George Washington for her freshman season in 2019, it wasn’t what she thought it would be. She wasn’t very happy, and it wasn’t going to plan. During that fresh man year, she wanted to transfer somewhere closer to home – long before her freshman soft ball season began. The school just wasn’t the right fit for her.

“I just wasn’t happy being that far away from home,” Kummer said. “It wasn’t the right fit for me. It didn’t feel like they were my people. There were nice people and I got to see some cool things, but it wasn’t for me.”

Kummer decided to stay for the entirety of the year and give the softball season a fair chance. She also knew that if she was going to play softball again at the Division 1 level that she would have to put a season on the books that

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Wisconsin Badger Morgan Kummer stands in the box and reps the Badgers’ logo on her hel

met and the Big Ten logo on her jersey as she awaits the pitch. Photo courtesy of Morgan Kummer KUMMER

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showed she could play at the highest level. So, she played her freshman season at George Washington University.

In that 2019 season, she made the Atlantic 10 All Rookie Team and helped the team win a share of the conference title which included a pinch hit single in the Atlantic 10 Champi onship win over Saint Louis in May of 2019. Her 55 appearances during her freshman season tied the George Washington Univer

sity record for most all time and she became an integral part of a successful team.

What she displayed on the field during that freshman season showed other schools that she was capable of playing at a high level in a power five conference such as the Big Ten.

“After the season ended, I broke the news to the coaches that it wasn’t the right fit for me and it couldn’t have gone any better,” Kummer said. “They were so understanding, and I made it really clear to them that it wasn’t something they did wrong. It just gen uinely wasn’t the right fit and I left on amazing terms. The coaches at George Washington even helped me with the transfer process.”

Immediately after entering the transfer portal, Kummer began getting calls and emails from schools around the country that wanted her to play softball for their respective programs. Kum mer’s dream remained playing at the University of Wisconsin and she had two major factors working in her favor.

First, she had put together an outstanding season both individ ually and as a team at George Washington University during her freshman season. Second, she was born and raised in Wisconsin, something that the coaching staff at Madison loves to recruit – homegrown talent.

The timing worked out for Kummer perfectly. When she was in Madison for the state softball tournament during that same sea son, she made contact with the Wisconsin coaching staff and set up an official visit with the Badgers the following week.

“I got to explore the campus, the facilities and meet the girls,” Kummer said. “They offered me a spot on the team with a schol arship and it was a resounding yes.”

While there were schools from all around the country vying for Kummer’s softball future, for her, it was always going to be Wisconsin. She always wanted to be a Badger and her chance came during that sophomore season of 2020. She spoke about those other schools trying to get her to join their programs.

“In my dream scenario, it would have always been Wiscon sin,” Kummer said. “My dad is from the cities and my mom is from Ellsworth, but she grew up cheering for all of the Minnesota sports teams. Growing up I was always at Gopher events, cheer ing for the Vikings and the Twins. But the only Wisconsin sport I would ever cheer for was Wisconsin softball.”

While Kummer is still deeply attached to Minnesota sports, there was just something special about Wisconsin softball that she fell in love with at a very young age.

“I don’t know what it was specifically,” Kummer said. “The way that they played, the girls on that team, a bunch of those girls came from the cities and played on club teams that I played against. I knew of all these girls in my area that were committed to Wisconsin while I was in high school and that motivated me because I was in a very similar boat.”

Although something didn’t quite click at George Washington, that all changed as soon as Kummer got to Wisconsin. She spoke about how she found her home away from home with the Badg ers.

“Without a doubt (Madison is my second home),” Kummer said. “I tell people all the time that this was the best decision I ever made. Transferring itself went above and beyond what I ever thought was going to happen. Sophomore year before COVID hit was the happiest time of my life.”

She said that the transition of going from Washington D.C. to Madison was something that changed her life and she wouldn’t change a single thing about the process of getting there. She spoke about some of her favorite parts of being a Badger.

“It feels like a family,” Kummer said. “We always joke about how family isn’t always easy. It’s not always smiles and rain bows. But I know I can go to any girl on the team and tell them about my day, about what I’m struggling with, what I’m happy about – softball related or not. Not many places have that cohe sion among their program.”

While there are a lot of great things about Madison and the softball team, she said that the people she’s met have been the most important part of the journey.

“I’ve met my soulmates of friends here,” Kummer said. “I think that I’ll have these people in my life forever. I think that’s something that I’ll forever treasure. I don’t think I would have said that to be true at George Washington by any means.”

Kummer’s 2022 season is her third year with the Badgers soft

ball program and because of COVID 19 severely impacting one of the seasons, she was given an extra year of athletic eligibility to use if she so desires.

She is on track to earn her bachelor’s degree in May and plans to attend graduate school at Madison in the fall. If all goes ac cording to plan, she plans to use her extra year of eligibility while she is in graduate school so she can continue playing softball with the Badgers.

“I’ve found my people here at UW and within the Badgers softball program,” Kummer said. “I wouldn’t trade my experi ence here for anything. I have one more year of eligibility left and if it’s in the cards, I would be ecstatic to use my last year of eligibility here.”

April 26, 2022