Women’s softball falls short over weekend against WIAC foes

Blugold women’s softball loses in a pair of doubleheaders against UW-Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater

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The women's softball team has achieved a winning record so far this season.

Photo by SUBMITTED

The women's softball team has achieved a winning record so far this season.

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One run was the difference in each of UW-Eau Claire’s four softball games this weekend against conference opponents UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh.

The Blugolds traveled to Whitewater on Saturday to battle with the Warhawks, falling in walk-off fashion in back-to-back games with a score of 4-3 in each. In the first meeting since last year’s 13-inning Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship (WIAC), the Blugolds and Warhawks provided another pair of thrilling games.

Conference play provides an extra level of competitiveness and is recognized as one of toughest conferences in the country by fans and players alike.

“We all hit well and all play great defense,” said outfielder Rachel Heffel. “It is just a matter of who hits better and who plays better defense that day.”

Heffel was right; the better defensive team would come out victorious.                 

In the first game of the day, the No. 9-ranked Blugolds jumped out to a three-run lead in the top of the fourth inning. Whitewater quickly answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.

The game remained scoreless until the bottom of seventh, when the Warhawks picked up a walk and back-to-back singles to win the first of two games that day.

Senior Evie Schaller and Sophomore Tayler Mort led the offensive attack for the Blugolds, accounting for two hits apiece in the loss.

Game two was all too similar for the Blugolds as they hit the scoreboard first with two runs in the first inning. Eau Claire added an insurance run in the sixth inning, but just like in game one, the Warhawks responded with three runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie it up.

The score would remain knotted at three until the tenth inning when a walk-off solo home run by Whitewater ended it.

Sophomore Brooke Varian shined in the defeat, going 3-for-3 with two runs batted in.

Coach Leslie Huntington said she was left wondering whether mental fatigue contributed to the Blugolds’ inability to keep a lead.

“We have to finish games,” Huntington said. “We had leads versus Whitewater and didn’t build on them and/or sustain them. We have to be better with our pitching and defense with two outs, and we also have to be better offensively when we have two outs.”

The Blugolds traveled to Oshkosh the next day looking to bounce back against the Titans, but instead found similar results. Eau Claire once again fell in back-to-back games by the same score, this time 2-1.

Oshkosh got out in front first in game one, scoring two runs in the first inning. A run wouldn’t be scored again until the final inning in the defensive battle. Senior Sam Noetzelman’s RBI-double down the infield line was just not enough to overcome the Titans’ first inning two-run homer.

Senior pitcher Lauren Blasczyk limited Oshkosh to just three hits, one being the game decider. She struck out five hitters and pitched four straight innings of no-hit ball.

Game two saw a similar lack of offense, as the first run didn’t cross home plate until the eleventh inning. Schaller sent a pitch to left field to put the Blugolds on the scoreboard and give them a 1-0 lead.

However, Eau Claire committed two of their five errors in the final inning, allowing the Titans to tie and ultimately win the game.

Despite the disappointing weekend, Schaller and the team is still encouraged.

“Our team works well together,” Schaller said. “We just need to keep trusting the process.”

The tough weekend stretch leaves the Blugolds at 17-7 on the season and 2-4 in conference play. They will have a chance to get back on track next weekend as St. Norbert comes to Bollinger Field for a doubleheader.

“The past weekend does not define who we are as a team, or what we can accomplish,” Coach Huntington said. “We are still going in the right direction.

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