The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Different routes, same destination

This season, the UW-Eau Claire softball team has had to endure horrible weather, multiple cancellations, postponements and a compressed schedule which forced the team to play five doubleheaders in one week.

But at the end of this bizarre regular season, the Blugolds find themselves in the same spot as last season: conference champions.So. Casey Arnold catcher

The team clinched the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season title with a 6-4 road victory over

UW-Oshkosh April 30 to cap a hectic week with a 25-6 overall record and a 13-3 mark in conference, one game ahead of UW-Whitewater.

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Sophomore outfielder Amanda Fischer said having won conference last year helped the team stay mentally sharp this season.

“As a team, we were so much more confident and ready to attack the entire conference season,” Fischer said. “The chemistry that we have as a team made it a lot more special also.”

Fischer was named WIAC position player of the week after going 12-26 with two home runs and nine runs batted in during the period. She added five hits and two RBI’s in the conference-clinching sweep over Oshkosh.

Fischer’s biggest game came in a 10 inning, 12-9 victory over UW-Stout April 25.

Fischer hit a three-run home run in the first inning and connected on another three-run shot in the 10th to give her team the lead.

Head Coach Leslie Huntington had high praise for Fischer, who finished the regular season with a .388 batting average, five home runs and 29 stolen bases.

“Amanda is probably the single most naturally talented player I’ve ever coached,” Huntington said. “She is a true five tool player. Quite frankly, I think she is one of the top two players in the conference.”

Fischer said she has not given the idea of a potential conference player of the year honor much thought.

“I don’t really think about that type of stuff,” Fischer said. “I’m always more focused on the team and what’s going to be best for the team. Any individual accolades that come with it are just little toppers.”

The Blugolds started this crucial stretch by splitting road doubleheaders with Stout and Whitewater and a home double dip against UW-River Falls.

After this 3-3 start to the most crucial part of the season, Huntington said the team was in playoff mode for the remaining four games.

The Blugolds needed nine innings to win game one of an April 28 home doubleheader against UW-Platteville but won on a walkoff single by senior second baseman Jenny Hess.

The Blugolds got seven combined shutout innings of relief from little-used junior Emily Ruegemer and staff ace Emma Wishau, who picked up the win.

Game two against Platteville was not nearly as close, with the Blugolds crushing the Pioneers 12-1. Fisher finished with four RBI’s, while first baseman Sarah Fern and third baseman Emily Haluska, both seniors, and sophomore catcher Casey Arnold added two apiece.

Wishau got the ball in game one of the final doubleheader against Oshkosh and delivered a gem, allowing two runs on six hits in a complete game victory to move to 7-2 on the year.

Wishau also started game two, but was removed after one inning in favor of freshman Zana Lorbetske, who allowed three unearned runs in six innings in the conference clincher for her eighth win of the year.

Lorbetske had a great week, including throwing 9.1 relief innings and striking out 16 batters in the 12-9 victory over Stout.

Coupled with Sophomore Laura Raflik’s struggles against Stout in that same game (0.2 innings, five earned runs), Lorbetske moved into a starting role for much of the week.

Raflik said she struggled to adjust to the turf field at Stout and was happy to have a successful rebound outing against Platteville, giving up one run in five innings during the team’s 12-1 win.

“It was huge to have that confidence builder, just to know that the Stout game was just one little fluke and it’s not who I am as a pitcher,” Raflik said.

Huntington said Raflik is an important member of the pitching staff and no decisions have been made regarding the team’s second starter behind Wishau for postseason play.

Huntington also said Fern and sophomore Nikki Brooks will be important for the offense moving forward. Fern, one of the team’s best power threats, has not homered since March 29 and has just two home runs on the year. Fern said she has been dealing with the death of a close family friend since last week, which affected her mentally and left her less able to get over frustrations as quickly as normal.

She said the brief layoff between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason should be great for her mindset.

“I think that’s definitely going to help me refresh and let everything kind of flush out of my system and get my head back to being positive,” Fern said.

The WIAC conference tournament is set to begin Friday, but bad weather looms again in the forecast.

Huntington said postponing play Friday would force the league to implement its two-day tournament
protocol. But for now, both Huntington and her players are trying to enjoy their second consecutive regular season title, despite the unusual scheduling circumstances.

“I’m so, so proud of our team and so happy for our kids,” Huntington said. “But it’s a really surreal feeling right now this year.”

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