Softball earns two victories on Sunday; coach tallies 300th win
For UW-Eau Claire softball coach Leslie Huntington, notching 300 wins has been as much about other people as it has been about her.
“It means there were a lot of great people, staff members and great players,” said Huntington, who became just the third coach in Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference history to win 300 games. “Without their hard work and dedication, 300 wins isn’t possible.”
But it will be Huntington’s name in the record books after she picked up her 300th win with an 11-1 Blugold victory over Blackburn College (Ill.) Sunday at the Illinois Wesleyan University Tournament.
Eau Claire also defeated Fontbonne University (Mo.) on Sunday with an 8-2 score, improving their record to 18-10 on the season. It was a bounce back day for the team after suffering two losses to Wesleyan on Saturday that Huntington described as “pretty heartbreaking.”
Eau Claire brought out the power bats against Blackburn, hitting five home runs, including two from senior catcher Nikki Bromelkamp.
Bromelkamp, named a WIAC Athlete of the Week last week, had four total hits on the day to raise her season average to .415. Huntington credited her team’s power with exceptional patience, especially in the ability to lay off of good rise balls.
First baseman Sarah Fern, who connected on her team-leading sixth home run of the season against Blackburn, said the team has been on a roll offensively.
“You take a look at our lineup right now, and everybody is crushing the ball,” she said.
Sophomore Emma Wishau (7-6) pitched four innings and allowed one run while striking out four to pick up the win against Blackburn.
The Blugolds didn’t hit any home runs in game two, but they still put eight runs on the board against Fontbonne. Fern came through with a two-run single in the second inning, and freshman outfielder Taylor Pierce reached base five times, going 4-4 with a walk and two runs batted in.
Senior Ashley Meinen got the win by going 5.1 innings and allowing two runs. Her record now stands at 7-3 on the season.
Freshman Laura Raflik continued her strong pitching, throwing a scoreless inning of relief in each game to move her season earned run average down to 1.07. Raflik has only been scored on in two of her 11 appearances this season.
Freshman Amanda Fischer, who hit her third home run of the season against Blackburn and added three hits against Fontbonne, said the team’s performance was encouraging.
“I thought we played very well,” she said. “We played two complete games in all aspects, defensively, offensively and pitching.”
Huntington echoed Fischer’s sentiments, adding that the resilience her team showed to come back from the tough Wesleyan losses impressed her.
“Obviously, offensively we performed very well today,” she said. “I think it was a big step for us.”
The Blugolds return to conference play Wednesday with a road doubleheader against UW-La Crosse. Huntington, Fern and Fischer all said the team is in a crucial stretch of the season where conference games become vitally important.
The Blugolds currently sit in second place in the WIAC, two games behind conference leader UW-Whitewater.
Fern put it simply when she said, “It’s time to buckle down.”
Huntington said she thinks a conference title is well within the team’s grasp if they keep the mindset they’ve had all season.
“(The players) know that we can’t look too far ahead, but they also know that we can’t look back,” Huntington said. “We’ve just got to take it one day at a time. If we continue to approach it that way, I like our chances.”