Softball takes two non-conference games

Softball+practice

Story by Chris Reinoos

The UW-Eau Claire softball team picked up two wins Saturday, defeating St. Scholastica (Minn.) 11-10 and Northland College 10-1 in Ashland to move to 14-8 on the season.

Both Eau Claire head coach Leslie Huntington and senior pitcher Ashley Meinen said the wind was strong, which they believed aided St. Scholastica in hitting three home runs off Meinen. Meinen gave up seven runs, five earned, on eight hits in 5.1 innings.

“I’m just glad we won the two games,” Meinen said. “Our whole team kind of had a rough day. We didn’t come out and play our best.”

Eau Claire was down 10-7 entering the top of the seventh inning. But as they have done many times this season, the team came back from a late deficit and pulled out a victory.

Back-to-back doubles by seniors Jess Freagon and Nikki Bromelkamp opened the inning, and after a walk and a foul out, Bromelkamp scored on an error by St. Scholastica pitcher Darcy Roach.

Freshman Taylor Pierce then came up with another game-winning hit, lacing a two-run single to make the score 11-10, which freshman Laura Raflik made stand up with a perfect bottom of the seventh.

“Well, probably several victories so far,” Huntington said with a laugh when asked what Pierce’s addition has meant to the team this year. “She seems to have been the one to really propel us in a few of these big games.”

The second game was not nearly as eventful or suspenseful. Sophomore Emma Wishau got the start in the pitcher’s circle and fired five innings of one run ball, evening her record to 5-5 on the year.

The Blugolds got a home run and three runs batted in from junior first baseman Sarah Fern, while right fielder Amanda Fischer went 2-3 and drove in a pair.

But the hitting star of the day was Bromelkamp. The catcher went a combined 4-6 in the two games, raising her season batting average to .356. She also drove in six runs on the day, nearly equaling her season total of seven coming into play Saturday. Bromelkamp said she has felt very comfortable at the plate lately.

“At the beginning of the season, I kind of watched a lot of strikes go by,” Bromelkamp said. “The last couple of games, I’ve been more aggressive at the plate.”

Despite the two victories, Huntington said she wants her team to be more consistent and not rely as much on late-game heroics. Huntington said she was particularly concerned with suspect defensive play, and efforts like the one against St. Scholastica may not be good enough the rest of the season.

“I don’t want them to get into a mindset that being down late in the game isn’t a problem,” Huntington said.

One player in particular who could be vital to the team’s performance the rest of the way is junior Emily Haluska. Haluska was a first-team all-conference selection last season, when she hit .406 in 45 games. But this season, she has struggled to find a rhythm, batting .259 with just one extra base hit. Huntington said the coaching staff has been working with Haluska on waiting back on the ball and increasing her patience at the plate.

“It’s definitely important that she starts coming around here pretty quick,” Huntington said. “We definitely need to get that bat going the way she’s swung it in the past.”

Eau Claire returns to conference play with a home doubleheader Thursday against UW-Stout. The Blugolds have won 11 of the past 12 meetings between the two teams, including taking both games last season. The first game is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.