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

    Blugolds sweep Pointers

    The difference between the UW-Eau Claire softball team’s Thursday matchup against St. Scholastica (Minn.) and their Saturday doubleheader against UW-Stevens Point was like night and day as far as run support is concerned.

    The 14th-ranked Blugolds split the doubleheader against the Saints, winning the first game 1-0 but dropping the second 3-1. In contrast, Eau Claire swept Stevens Point 7-4 and 11-3, respectively. The team was set to play at UW-Whitewater in another doubleheader Sunday, but weather conditions forced the game to be played today.

    Currently, the Blugolds hold a 10-2 WIAC conference record, good for second in the conference, and are 25-8 overall after the weekend.

    In the first game against St. Scholastica, senior pitcher Bri Sturm tallied eight strikeouts and notched the complete game shutout. She only allowed two hits and walked two batters.

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    The only run came on a two-out single down the left field line by junior Ainsley Klar, scoring freshman Aleisha Harper from second.

    Klar said her hit was an example of timely hitting that the team has been collectively working on improving.

    “Against St. Scholastica, we were getting runners on through walks and fielder’s choices,” she said. “Timely hitting is something we’ve been focusing on because we have the ability; we just have to get that hit.”

    While it was enough for the win behind Sturm’s seven inning pitching effort, coach Leslie Huntington was disappointed in the team’s offensive approach.

    “I think it was a little bit of a lack of intensity and focus on offense,” she said. “We made a lineup change in the second game hoping to spark something, but it didn’t work.”

    Against the Pointers, the Blugolds wanted to take advantage of being the visiting team by putting runs on the board early.

    “We stressed coming out and setting the tone offensively right away because we had the advantage of hitting first,” Klar said. “We wanted to keep pouring (the runs) on. Hitting is contagious, and we found that against Stevens Point.”

    Eau Claire was down 3-1 heading into the third inning of the first game against Stevens Point. However, the Blugold offense exploded in the top of the third, breaking the game open with five runs to take a 6-3 lead.

    Before the game, Klar said she was frustrated during hitting warm ups, so Huntington spent some extra time helping her adjust her swing a bit. The extra work paid off, as Klar belted her first collegiate home run in the second inning.

    “I knew in that at-bat I wanted to stress coming up strong,” she said. “I was mainly focusing on scoring runs for the team, but it was pretty exciting since I’ve never (hit a home run) before.”

    Eau Claire continued to swing the bats well in the second game, scoring 11 runs on 11 hits. Huntington said some of the offensive improvements could be attributed to an increased awareness of playing a WIAC conference opponent. She added the Blugolds were in full attack mode against the Pointers and need to maintain that attitude against all opponents.

    “That’s certainly not something we promote as a team,” Huntington said, “but the fact that it was a conference game and Stevens Point hasn’t won a conference game yet might have contributed to our success.”

    The Blugolds will travel to Whitewater today to face the conference-leading Warhawks, who have yet to lose a game in WIAC play. However, Huntington said the pressure is on the opposition to keep their record clean.

    “We’re approaching it from the standpoint that the pressure is on them and we want to get better,” she said. “We want to go down and give it our best shot.”

    Although the Blugolds aren’t playing their best softball, Huntington said this is a potential advantage as the postseason draws closer.

    “I think we’re sitting in pretty good shape,” she said. “Ultimately, you don’t want to (play your best) until the end of the season. You want to peak in the conference tournament.”

    Pitching consistency, game plan execution and offense are three things Huntington is hoping the team improves in its final regular season games.

    “Pitchers need to continue to work on holding opposing offenses down,” she said. “We have to get better at execution and defense, but offensively I was pleased with our aggressiveness (against Stevens Point). If we can carry that into our last three doubleheaders, I feel good about where we’re at.”

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