Softball drops two ranked squads

Even with two bigs wins, Eau Claire splits 2-2 in away tournament over the weekend

Story by Austin Mai, Staff Writer

The UW-Eau Claire softball team started its run at the Illinois Wesleyan Tournament in Bloomington, Ill.,  playing Washington (Mo.). Eau Claire won the first game, 8-0, in six innings.

The team took a quick lead and would not let up, belting four home runs on the nationally-ranked opponent.

Juniors Taylor Pierce, Casey Arnold and Amanda Fischer hit home runs, including two for Fischer.

“We went in thinking that if we lose to them, we’d have lost to a nationally-ranked team,” Arnold said. “But if we beat them, that’s pretty awesome. We ended up beating them, and it was awesome.”

Head coach Leslie Huntington said the team saw this tournament as an opportunity to turn their season in a better direction.

“If you can get solid pitching, it builds the confidence of your defense,” Huntington said. “Once the defense started playing confidently, the bats came alive and had a lot of fun.”

In the second game, the Blugolds challenged nationally-ranked Anderson University (Ind.) and succeeded, winning 10-1 in five innings.

“We had good pitching again out of our senior pitcher Emma Wishau and junior pitcher Laura Raflik in relief,” Huntington said. “It starts in the circle, and when the pitchers come out and are solid, we can get the batters to do what we want.”

Defense was especially important early in game two, as Eau Claire was able to stop Anderson’s offensive push in the top of the third and get the three outs, stranding three runners on base.

“Another significant change that we made was bringing Amanda Fischer in from the outfield to play third base,” Huntington said. “She was very solid. Having that happen gave our team a sense of calm.”

Eau Claire’s offense erupted in the fourth and fifth innings as the team scored nine runs to end the game early.

“It was crazy,” Arnold said. “It was incredible. It was one of the coolest things in the world. We had some of the hardest hits and they were all back to back.”

The second day at the Illinois Wesleyan Tournament did not go as well.

Eau Claire had a rematch with Washington University.

The game was close but didn’t bode well for the Blugolds as they lost 4-2.

With Eau Claire down two in the bottom of the third, Brooks swung a double to bring home two runs and tie the game at 2-2.

“We made a couple of key mistakes in right field that allowed Washington University to score their first two runs,” Huntington said. “If we don’t make those mistakes, nobody knows how the game would’ve went.”

Both teams were neck and neck, neither school scoring again until the seventh inning.

In the seventh, the Bears were able to put the game away, leaving Eau Claire with its first loss in the tournament.

The Blugolds’ fourth game presented them with the highest-ranked competition yet, the tournament’s host, Illinois Wesleyan (Ill.). Eau Claire never put any points on the board and lost to the host 6-0.

“The score didn’t show how close the game really was,” Arnold said. “They had bases loaded with two outs, and hit a triple down the right side that let them score three runs.”

Freshman pitcher Lauren Blasczyk pitched five innings, and gave up four runs on six hits with one strikeout. Raflik pitched the final two outs of the sixth inning.

“We got picked off at first base four times, that’s pretty frustrating,” Huntington said. “We gave up four outs, and when we’re not crushing the ball, four outs hurts.”

The Blugolds return to action at 3 p.m. Friday as they host UW-Stevens Point for a doubleheader.