Bringing the bats out west

    The Blugold softball team escaped the harsh weathers of Wisconsin to battle the heat of Arizona

    More stories from John Mattison

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    The UW-Eau Claire softball team was able to avoid last week’s snowstorm that dropped several inches of snow around Wisconsin as they headed out to Tucson, Arizona for the Tucson Invitational to begin their season.

    The Blugolds had double-headers from March 18-22, and then played their final two games on March 24.

    Coach Huntington said the team has played well at times and poorly at other times so far this season.

    “I expected our defense to get better as the tournament went on, but it never came along the way I wanted it to,” Huntington said.

    Errors on the field seemed to be the largest problem for the Blugolds. Although it is still early in the season, Coach Huntington said the struggles defensively could have been for a number of reasons.

    “We played two games a day for almost six days in a row,” Huntington said. “Playing in a different climate made a few of our players sick and fatigued. After we had an off-day on Thursday, we came out looking and playing fresh.”

    Huntington said the weather was not all to blame for some of the errors on the defensive side of the ball.

    “We should be able to field ground balls, catch pop-flies and make throws no matter the environment,” Huntington said.

    Although the defense did not play up to Huntington’s expectations, she said everyone stepped up and contributed in a major way.

    One individual who stepped up in particular was Evie Schaller, a transfer from Winona State University.

    The junior shortstop earned WIAC softball player of the week honors for her efforts at the Tucson Invitational, where she started the tournament on a seven-game hit streak.

    “Evie’s first week as a Blugold was great, and I am excited to have her be a part of our team this year,” Huntington said.

    Schaller batted a team leading .583 (14-for-24) with 12 RBI and three runs scored. Schaller tallied two doubles and one triple, finishing the week with a .615 on-base percentage.

    “I’m just excited to play softball,” Schaller said. “The whole team really loves the game, and our coaches really help us to elevate our play on the field.”

    Schaller was humbled to receive the award after her first week of Blugold softball, she said.

    “I was very honored with being named WIAC player of the week,” Schaller said. “I’m excited to be playing for Eau Claire, and I think we will be a strong contender this season.”

    The Blugolds (8-6) will continue their season on Thursday, March 31, as they travel to St. Catherine University (Minn.) for a double-header against the Wildcats.