Sun Prairie pitcher Maddie Gardner accepted a scholarship offer to the University of South Florida. Gardner is 71-7 with 737 strikeouts in her high school career.

Maddie Gardner, who pitched the Sun Prairie softball team to the 2018 WIAA Division 1 state championship and led the Cardinals to a runner-up finish in 2019, will be playing college softball at the University of South Florida following graduation.

The senior announced the decision on Twitter: I’m proud to announce that I will be continuing my academic and softball career at the University of South Florida. Thank you to all who helped me get to where I am today!

Gardner had previously verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin between her freshman and sophomore year, but decided USF was a better fit.

“In my class for Wisconsin there were some pretty strong pitchers coming in. Based on that knowledge, I decided to see if there were other opportunities that I can look at,” Gardner, a senior at SPHS, said. “South Florida happened to pop up on my radar, and I decided to explore that. The more that I looked into it, it drew me closer.”

Gardner was discovered by USF while playing summer softball for Iowa Premiere.

“They saw me and then we started talking back and forth,” she added.

Gardner earned first-team Big Eight Conference honors for a third consecutive year this past spring. She went 26-4 with a 2.18 earned run average, striking out a school-record 339 batters versus just 28 walks in 186 2/3 innings.

She earned Wisconsin Fastpitch Coaches Association first-team All-District and All-State honors, and was named the WFSCA co-Player of the Year.

Gardner has a career record of 71-7 with 737 career strikeouts in only three seasons.

Gardner began looking at the big picture already last winter, having only verbally committed to Wisconsin. Therefore, she was able to seek other college choices.

“When I told (Wisconsin) I was going to open my recruiting, I really never heard back from them. I don’t know if they were upset that I was looking elsewhere?” Gardner said.

Gardner will receive a partial scholarship, toward both athletics as well as academics.

South Florida played in the College World Series in 2012.

Gardner will be playing for Ken Eriksen, selected as the head coach of USA Softball in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, along with USF pitching coach Jessica Moore.

“To be able to be coached by them is a great opportunity,” Gardner said.

Gardner begins her senior season at Sun Prairie on March 31, 2020 against Madison Memorial.

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