Baseball club wins one of three; Friday game will decide championship
The UWEC Baseball Club entered its weekend series against Marquette needing to win two of three games to clinch the conference championship and earn a spot in the upcoming regional tournament.
After dropping the first two of the three game set, they saw any chance of clinching disappear.
In a true win or go home scenario, Eau Claire will now travel to Madison on Friday to take on UW-Madison. With a victory, Eau Claire will claim the championship crown and advance to regionals, while a loss will send them home for the year.
The possibility of a post season is something Eau Claire has not seen in awhile. Senior Ryan Pulvemacher recognized the gravity of the upcoming game against Madison but is also enjoying the ride.
“We haven’t been this far in four years,” Pulvermacher said. “We’re looking the best we have in a long time. It’s a fun time to be a senior, and I think we’re peaking at the right time of the season.”
After dropping Saturday’s game 10-4 due in large part to a huge six run second inning by Marquette, the Blugolds looked to rebound and sweep Sunday’s double header to secure their place in the postseason.
Both teams sent their aces to the mound and pitching proved to be the theme all game long.
Senior Shawn Held dominated the Marquette hitters, carrying a no hitter into the sixth inning. He finished with only two hits allowed in seven innings, but a solo homer with two outs in the sixth pushed Marquette to a 1-0 win in game two.
Held said it wasn’t surprising that the game ended up being a low-scoring affair.
“Everyone knew that was how this game was going to go down,” Held said. “We both threw our aces, and we both had low ERAs. Their guy pitched really well.”
The second game of Sunday’s double header served as an elimination game for the Blugolds. A loss would mathematically eliminate them from contention and end their quest for a conference championship and playoff berth.
Senior Erik Berns took to the mound for Eau Claire. Following Held’s lead, Berns turned in a gem, giving up only two runs through seven innings while striking out eight.
“I got my curveball working early and kept them off balance all game long,” Berns said. “Our defense really stepped up in the second game and our seniors outperformed them.”
Although both turned in quality pitching performances, the difference between Held and Berns proved to be run support. The Blugolds posted a three run first inning and Berns cruised from there. Eau Claire took the third game 6-2 to keep their postseason hopes afloat.
Both Herd and Berns will be available to pitch Friday in Madison when the team plays for the conference crown. Eau Claire currently stands a half game ahead of trailing Marquette. A loss to Madison would drop them into a virtual tie, but after taking two of three from the Blugolds, Marquette holds the edge in a tie breaking scenario.