Richmond-Burton's Peyton Bannon took a very strong liking to the University of Wisconsin and Badgers softball coach Yvette Healy during her first unofficial visit to the Madison campus as a rising freshman.
After attending Wisconsin's Big Ten game against Purdue with her mother, Janice, and father, Eric, at Goodman Softball Field on Sunday (a back-and-forth 4-3 win for Wisconsin), Bannon, now a sophomore, announced her decision to play for the Badgers via Twitter.
Bannon, who is batting .577 this year with eight extra-base hits in seven games for R-B, said the atmosphere at Sunday's game was electric. After Purdue took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning with three runs, the Badgers answered with two in the bottom half in front of a crowd of 1,973 fans.
She knew then it was the right time to make her decision.
"I’ve always really liked the school and it just kind of happened," said Bannon, who plays on Illinois Chill Gold for coach Gerry Quinn. "I was deciding between a few other schools, but I think where Wisconsin was located, the atmosphere of it, and everything just made my decision a little bit easier."
Bannon was named one of the top 100 freshmen in the country by FloSoftball.com and earned Northwest Herald All-Area honorable mention honors after batting .379 with eight doubles, two homers, a triple, 29 runs scored and 25 RBIs.
Richmond-Burton claimed its first regional title since 2011, finishing 15-11 overall and 8-4 in the Kishwaukee River Conference (third place).
Bannon, a shortstop, said she was choosing between Iowa State, DePaul, Illinois and Northern Illinois. She said the coaching staff at Wisconsin was a big reason why she chose the Badgers.
"I’ve dreamed about it for a really long time, so it’s very kind of cool that it happened," Bannon said. "They’re all very nice and they’ve always been super supportive. ... They’re a very family-oriented team, and I really liked that about them."
"I really love the coaches, and they have great academics. It's a really great school with a very beautiful campus. Everything just kind of fit."
Wisconsin went 35-17 last season, going 8-8 in the Big Ten. They are currently 22-19 and 6-8.
Bannon becomes the fourth local softball player to commit to a Big Ten school. She joins Hampshire's Delaney Rummell (Illinois), Marian Central's Maggie Finnegan (Penn State), and Prairie Ridge's Emmie Farnam (Northwestern). All four play for Chill Gold.
Now that her college decision is out of the way, Bannon said she is focused on ending her high school season on a high note. The Rockets are 4-3 and 3-2 in the KRC and have played in just seven games so far because of numerous weather cancellations.
"Since we won regional last year, I’d like to go farther than that," Bannon said. "That is definitely the goal right now. I think we all kind of feed off each other. When we’re all in, we’re pretty good.
"I think we can go pretty far."