Softball falls to conference competition

Blugolds go 0-2 in WIAC tournament

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Softball falls to conference competition

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Story by Austin Mai, Op/Ed Editor

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The softball team’s regular season ended by sharing a conference crown with UW-Whitewater, but the WIAC tournament remained to determine an undisputed champion and earn an automatic bid into the national tournament.

UW-Eau Claire’s regular season sweep of Whitewater earned the team home field advantage throughout the tournament and put them in a strong position to face opponents they had already beat during the regular season.

The Blugolds played UW-River Falls to begin the tournament and senior Casey Arnold said the team played hard, but couldn’t do enough to take the game.

Arnold

Arnold

River Falls hit a home run early to take the 1-0 lead and held on to it for the rest of the game. Arnold said despite the lower seed, River Falls had good players and played even harder for their retiring coach.

“(Brooke Lauritzen) pitched an amazing game,” Arnold said. “The umpire called the low pitch, so you had to swing at it.”

Head coach Leslie Huntington said the Falcons’ pitching posed a challenge for Eau Claire and it made the Blugolds swing at pitches they normally didn’t all season.

Lauritzen had ten strikeouts with only five hits and two walks in the victory.

After the opening game loss, Eau Claire had another chance against Whitewater to keep its season alive, but fell to the eventual tournament winners 6-4.

Huntington said the team knew they had to win to keep their season alive, but they couldn’t get it done.

“Our players thought they could score runs,” Huntington said. “I know they tried their best, but it wasn’t good enough this time.”

While the Blugolds’ season ended earlier than they wanted, players earned recognition for their regular season accomplishments.

Arnold, along with sophomore Lauren Blasczyk and seniors Amanda Fischer and Taylor Pierce, were selected to All-WIAC team by league coaches. Senior Laura Raflik was a co-recipient of the WIAC Scholar-Athlete award and sophomore Kelsey Meredith was named to the All-Sportsmanship team.

Fischer

Fischer

Fischer is the third person in WIAC history to receive the player of the year award twice in her career. She was named first team All-WIAC for the fourth time and is the fourth Blugold to ever do such.

“It feels good to go out this way,” Fischer said. “My numbers were good this year but being my senior year, it’s special to end this way.”

Fischer said she’s happy to be recognized, but she hopes people don’t only remember her when they look back at these teams.

“I hope my legacy is leaving more than just my physical performance and stats,” Fischer said. “I hope I’ve impacted my teammates, coaches and program at their hearts and lives outside of softball as well.”

Fischer will be an assistant coach for Eau Claire next season.

As the seniors’ careers end, Arnold said she’ll always remember the phrase kept their minds focused on the game.

“So what, next pitch,” Arnold said. “When something bad happens, on or off the field, being able to bounce back and let it go is important. That’s my motto for the rest of my life.”