Softball starts season 3-1

Softball starts season 3-1

Story by Frank F. Pellegrino

After being kept off the scoreboard in their season opener, the UW-Eau Claire women’s softball team bounced back with 24 runs on their way to three straight victories last weekend.

The Blugolds got their first chance to assess their potential for the season when they took on St. Thomas (Minn.) and Buena Vista (Iowa) in a pair of doubleheaders. It was their first time stepping onto a full-sized field since last season ended and also the first time hitters were able to see some live pitching.

Coach Leslie Huntington said it was evident the team hadn’t worked on their fielding much because they had several errors in their first game. She added that the team was able to quickly turn that around after the opening contest, and she was happy to see that from her team.

“When you have been practicing five weeks in the gym, and then you go to a turf surface, the ball bounces a little differently,” Huntington said. “We cleaned those up on Sunday, and overall, I was pleased with everything that we did.”

The team dropped the opener against St. Thomas 2-0 but came back with 12 runs in the second game of the doubleheader. Ultimately, the offensive power ended up being the difference in the game, as they needed it to hold off the Tommies 12-8.

Junior Jess Freagon thought adjusting to the live pitching after the first game was key.

“It was bad that it took us seven innings to get going, but after that everyone was seeing the ball better and the bats just … got better after that,” she said.

The offense got even better for the Blugolds in their second day of doubleheaders, this time against Buena Vista. Eau Claire came out with a convincing 6-1 win in the first game before showing some grit in the second game on their way to a 6-5 (8 inning) victory.

The Blugolds were up 4-0 after two innings and saw their lead slowly dwindle throughout the game. Up by two in the final inning, Eau Claire couldn’t hold Buena Vista back, and the game was knotted up at five on an unearned run.

Instead of lying down after blowing a two-run lead in the seventh inning, Eau Claire showed they weren’t going down easy. After a scoreless bottom of the seventh and top of the eighth, the Blugolds were able to knock in the game-winning run on a single from sophomore Emily Haluska.

Senior Sara Baumgartner said she really liked the will she saw from her teammates.

“It was discouraging to have them tie the game up in the seventh, but we then were able to get focused and drive that run in to win the game,” Baumgartner said. “It was one of those situations you like to see early in the season, to see the team fight back and scrape out a run to win a close ballgame.”

Huntington said she saw a lot of things she liked from her team during the opening weekend, and that it didn’t seem like they were unprepared for any situation.

The Blugolds will continue to practice indoors until spring break when they will head to Arizona to play 10 games in five days. Huntington said she is looking forward to seeing how the team performs during that tournament and the rest of the season.

“I am real optimistic,” she said. “This is a hardworking group, and they are very cohesive, and they are playing with a lot of confidence. I am really excited about what the rest of the season holds.”