UW-Eau Claire Softball headed south for spring break play

Blugold softball goes split games over break



Story by Austin Mai, Op/Ed Editor

In life, it’s sometimes necessary to tear down in order to rebuild. This can prove to be true with relationships and infrastructure, as the final product is an improved, stronger, reinforced version of the original.

Similarly, the UW-Eau Claire women’s softball team had a moment like this during its spring break trip after losing a doubleheader to No. 4 University of Texas at Tyler 11-2 in five innings and 9-1 in six innings.

“It was the ugliest softball I’ve ever been a part of,” head coach Leslie Huntington said. “We made a ton of mistakes. We did things that are uncharacteristic of Blugold softball.”

While the team allowed 20 runs in those two games, 15 of the runs came after the Patriots had two outs. This included one inning when Eau Claire allowed five runs after Tyler had struck out twice.

Huntington said the team was in position to be in control in the doubleheader but didn’t finish, leaving neither the players or the coaches proud of the games. It was time to move on and look toward the next day’s doubleheader, but some players weren’t over the loss quite yet.

“We had our opportunities to beat them,” catcher Casey Arnold said. “We made stupid mistakes at the worst times.”

Mistakes were made and errors allowed their opponent to capitalize and score. The Blugolds had been beaten down but they were not out for the week-long count.

“I told the players tomorrow is a new day, and it was important for us to regroup and bounce back,” Huntington said.

The Blugolds did bounce back, and won five of the next eight games including two doubleheader sweeps and three run rule games.

Two of the three losses came against No. 3 East Texas Baptist University by final scores of 3-2 and 1-0. Huntington said this doubleheader was a more accurate glimpse at how well this team can play.

“We were one run away from beating (East Texas Baptist) in our doubleheader,” Huntington said. “East Texas Baptist and Tyler played their series over the last two days and (East Texas Baptist) beat Tyler 5-2.”

Pitcher Zana Lorbetske said the Tigers proved to be a great challenge for the team and Huntington said the improved pitching was one of the key factors in the week’s success.

“Our pitchers are doing a really good job,” Huntington said. “They’re getting ahead and they’re staying ahead on the count, keeping our opponents on edge.”

She said there’s something the pitchers can get better at everyday but she’s very pleased with where they are and as long as they continue to get better the team will be where they want to be at the end of the season.

After a pit stop for two doubleheaders in Illinois on the way to Texas for a week filled with five doubleheaders, the Blugolds went 7-7 in spring break play and ended with an 8-10 overall record. This included coming back after a 1-0 loss against No. 22 Louisiana College and winning 8-0 in six innings.

With the team’s first home game set for Thursday, this will be the first time in awhile Gelein Field will be without snow and ready for softball action as scheduled.

“We haven’t been able to play a home game this early in years,” Huntington said. “I hope fans aren’t deterred by our 8-10 record because we’re a really good 8-10 team. I think we are positioned well heading into conference play.”

The Blugolds will swing into the conference season following the doubleheader against Marian University set for 3 and 5 p.m. Thursday at Gelein Field. Moving forward, Lorbetske said she believes it’ll be important to remember how they felt after the Tyler game.

“(The Tyler doubleheader loss) was the turning point,” Lorbetske said. “We knew we had to come together as a team and all work together in order for it to work. It was a team effort and everybody knew their role. We need to keep this mentality.”