Softball selected for NCAA National Tournament
The UW-Eau Claire softball team screamed in excitement about their at-large bid into the NCAA Division III Championship, which they learned about on Monday afternoon, as seen in their celebration video on the Blugolds website.
“Before they made the announcement I was just hoping we had done enough to get an at-large bid,” said Coach Leslie Huntington. “There is a lot of numerical data that goes into determining who gets in and who doesn’t and fortunately we had the right combination.”
This past Sunday, the Blugolds played their hardest in the WIAC tournament championship to try to move on to the NCAA championship, according to Huntington. She said, in their semi-final game against UW-La Crosse, the women were confident they could win.
Her confidence was well-founded as senior Sara Baumgartner, junior Jess Freagon and junior Emily Muller all touched home in the bottom of the first and Freagon again in the fifth. Their 4-0 lead carried them all the way to the end, resulting in a win for the Blugolds.
Junior Ashley Meinen said the game against La Crosse was a fight for their lives.
“We needed to win or we were done,” Meinen said. “It was our last shot.”
This game was particularly exciting because it was the first time they beat the Eagles in seven games, three of which were this season.
“In this point in the season coach really focuses on staying positive,” said Baumgartner about the difference between games, “and taking everything one pitch at a time, not thinking too far ahead just thinking about the moment. ”
The momentum from the win against La Crosse did carry over into the championship game later in the day, though, against UW-River Falls, said Huntington.
“We had the attitude that we were going to go out and get what we want,” Huntington said. “We were aggressive and knew we had to play our best ball in order to win, and the players stepped up.”
The Blugolds started strong, scoring four runs in the first five innings, leaving the score at 4-2 at the bottom of the fifth.
River Falls brought the heat in the seventh inning, scoring three more runs. Eau Claire had the chance to score again but couldn’t manage to get anyone home.
River Falls went on to win the WIAC tournament championship 5-4.
“Our team can control we what can control,” said Baumgartner. She said they should be proud of the way they played in Sunday’s game.
Although the Blugolds fell short against River Falls, with the at-large bid they are still moving on. This coming weekend, the Blugolds will be playing in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
Eau Claire is hosting the regional tournament, from May 12-16 in Carson Park. This Thursday, the Blugolds will face St. Thomas University (Minn.) at 4:00 p.m.