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

    Softball team rolls, opens conference play 4-0

    The UW-Eau Claire softball team got off to a perfect start in its conference schedule, going 4-0 this past weekend at Pioneer Stadium in Platteville.

    The Blugolds played both UW-Stevens Point and UW-Superior on Saturday and Sunday in an improvised schedule that became necessary when poor weather caused games to be reshuffled. The UW-Platteville field played host to eight teams over the two days.

    Eau Claire defeated Stevens Point 8-0 Saturday and 8-3 Sunday and Superior 4-2 Saturday and 8-0 Sunday to move to 16-3 on the year. Head coach Leslie Huntington said her team showed marked improvement from their recent 1-2 trip in Iowa, especially in the pitcher’s circle.

    Given the tough weather circumstances the team has faced, Huntington said she likes the work her pitchers have been putting in.

    Story continues below advertisement

    “I think the challenge right now for the pitchers especially is that it’s like they’re changing surfaces every single day,” Huntington said. “One day we’re on dirt and then the next day we’re on turf and then the next day we’re on a gym floor. I think sometimes people overlook the challenges that come into play with a pitcher’s footing.”

    Junior Emma Wishau (3-1) started both games against Stevens Point, while sophomore Laura Raflik (6-1) got the ball both games against Superior. Wishau got a win on Saturday with five shutout innings and Raflik went 2-0 on the weekend, allowing only two earned runs in 11.1 combined innings.

    The Blugolds faced only one real threat during the weekend.

    They entered the seventh inning of Saturday’s game against Superior with a 4-0 lead, but senior Lindsay Garay lead off with a double and freshman Megan Nelson hit a two-run home run with one out to make it 4-2. Huntington brought in freshman Zana Lorbetske in a save opportunity, and she responded by retiring the two batters she faced to preserve the win.

    Huntington said her pitching staff has become more solidified in the past few weeks, with Wishau and Raflik starting and Lorbetske serving as the power-arm reliever. Huntington said settling these roles will be important moving forward.

    “I think that as all three of them continue to improve, it could work really well for us,” she said.

    Meanwhile, the Blugold offense rebounded after a minor hiccup that saw them score two total runs in their two losses in Iowa.

    Huntington described the offense as “a machine” and it’s hard to argue with that assessment. The team has scored at least eight runs in 11 of its 19 games this year, including three times this past weekend.

    Two key offensive contributors for the team this year have been sophomore catcher Casey Arnold and sophomore outfielder Nikki Brooks.

    Arnold leads the team with three home runs and is third on the team with 15 runs batted in, while Brooks is second on the team in batting average (.421) and on-base percentage (.511) and leads the club in slugging percentage (.711).

    Neither Arnold nor Brooks were starters last year. Huntington said because Arnold played some last year, she had an idea of what she could do at the plate. But Brooks’ season has been eye-opening for the head coach.

    “She’s just getting better and better, and the better she gets the more confident she gets, and you can see that when she gets to the plate,” Huntington said of Brooks.

    Brooks, who had a monster weekend at the plate (6-8, 2 home runs, 3 RBI’s, five runs scored), said she does not think of herself as a power hitter, despite hitting her first two collegiate home runs over the weekend.

    “I’m not someone who wants to look at a lot of strikes,” Brooks said. “I’m going to attack the zone. I’m going to put the ball in play. It might not necessarily be a home run, but it might be a single.”

    But as has been the case this entire season, the weather continues to rear its ugly head.

    The team’s scheduled Wednesday doubleheader at UW-Stout was postponed and moved to next week. Huntington said the team’s weekend series at UW-Oshkosh is also looking doubtful.

    Senior second baseman Jenny Hess said the cancellations have been discouraging, especially not being able to practice or play on Gelein Field at all so far this season.

    But Hess is holding out hope that the team will be able to play some very meaningful softball on their home field later this year.

    “Maybe my first time playing on my home field this year is going to be during the national championship,” Hess said. “I would like nothing more than that, so I still have a lot to look forward to.”

    Leave a Comment
    More to Discover

    Comments (0)

    The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
    All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Activate Search
    Softball team rolls, opens conference play 4-0