Softball goes 5-5 over break
Playing ten games in the span of a week proved to be a trying experience for the UW-Eau Claire softball team. But with a 5-5 record at the NTC Spring Games in Florida over spring break, the team managed to hold its own against some stiff competition.
Coach Leslie Huntington said the Blugolds, ranked 14th in the most recent National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll, learned a lot about where they stand at this early point of
“I think we saw the type of potential that this team has,” Huntington said. “I was just a little disappointed at the end of the week when we kind of let the fatigue dictate how we played.”
The team started the 10-game stretch hot, allowing only six runs in its first six games, going 4-2 over that span. Pitching was a key to the team’s success, with senior Ashley Meinen and sophomore Emma Wishau dominating the opposition.
In her first three appearances, two of which were starts, Meinen allowed only two earned runs in 14 innings. Wishau was even better, not allowing an earned run over 20 innings in her first three starts of the Games.
Wishau said she likes to pitch in close, low-scoring games because of the excitement and adrenaline rush. She ended the Games with a sparkling 0.95 earned run average in 29.1 innings, but lost two 1-0 games.
Fatigue seemed to set in on the fourth day of games, which saw Eau Claire losing 6-5 to Union College (N.Y.) and 9-1 to St. Thomas (Minn.). The team committed a combined seven errors in those two losses, which Huntington said was disappointing because of the emphasis placed on defense in practice.
Junior first basemen Sarah Fern, who hit two home runs in an 8-2 victory against Bethel University (Minn.), thought the team could have played a lot better during the week.
“Our expectations going in were to be competing with the top players out there and doing fairly well, and I think we just kind of struggled throughout the week,” Fern said.
Huntington said the team needs to learn how to score runs against top-tier pitching. The Blugolds collected just two hits and struck out 14 times while being shut out by Eastern Connecticut State’s Molly Rathbun, a first-team All-American last season.
Tufts University’s Allyson Fournier, a freshman who Huntington believes has a chance to be an All-American this year, also shut out the Blugolds while striking out 11 batters.
Senior Jess Freagon, a 2011 WIAC all-conference performer, struggled during the games, going 5-30. Another 2011 all-conference player, junior Emily Haluska, started slowly, with just two hits in the first five games, but finished strong for the Blugolds with four hits on the last day of games.
But the team was able to rebound somewhat on the last day of the Games, shutting out Hope College (Mich.) 8-0 and losing to Wellesley 4-3. Freshman Taylor Pierce, who went 6-26 and scored four runs during the Games, said it was nice to end on a higher note.
“We definitely came out as a team after being really tired through the week, so it felt good,” Pierce said.
Despite her team’s uneven play, Huntington said the games were an excellent way to prepare for the conference schedule.
“It’s really good for the players to play this many games,” Huntington said. “It gives us a real reality check of the things we need to work on.”
The Blugolds begin their conference schedule this Saturday with a doubleheader against UW-Stevens Point at Carson Park, with the first game beginning at 2 p.m.