Softball opens season swinging in Minnesota

    Blugolds bested No. 8 St. Catherine, fell to College of St. Benedict


    Photo by SUBMITTED

    Blugold women’s softball had a “productive weekend” in Rochester, Minnesota winning three of four games.

    The UW-Eau Claire women’s softball team completed a promising season opener. This weekend’s tournament in Rochester, Minnesota resulted in three Blugold wins over Nebraska Wesleyan University (NWU), Coe College, St. Catherine University and a loss against the College of St. Benedict (CSB).

    “I thought it was a super productive weekend,” Darby Raffel said, a senior team captain and accounting student. “It was good to see the team’s strengths and weaknesses.”

    Eau Claire’s first victim was the NWU Prairie Wolves, who they defeated 9-2. The Blugolds held a strong 6-0 lead during the first three innings of the game until the Prairie Wolves finally answered with two runs home. Their potential for a comeback was extinguished when Eau Claire added three more runs in the sixth inning.

    The Blugold’s win against NWU can be attributed to Sarah Peka’s pitching efforts. The second-year threw four innings with two strikeouts, no earned runs and only two hits allowed.

    The Blugolds also beat the Prairie Wolves at the plate — they out-hit NWU ten to four. Katie Rongstad, second-year infielder/outfielder, shone, tallying three of those hits. Cheyenne Johnson, second-year pitcher, produced a pair of base hits and a RBI. Bri Calder, junior  infielder/outfielder, also had two RBIs in the Blugold victory.

    Peka continued to dazzle the competition in game two’s triumph against the Coe College Kohawks. The pitcher delivered a 1-0 shutout, striking four batters out and allowing just three hits.

    Providing two of four Blugold hits, Gretchen Arneson, second-year catcher, found her place at the plate. Johnson and Brooke Varian, junior infielder, added a hit each to the total.

    Eau Claire defeated No. 8-ranked St. Catherine 4-3 on Sunday morning.

    Once again, the Blugolds had a strong showing in the first half of the game. Peka pitched the full game, striking three hitters out and only giving St. Catherine two earned runs on four hits.

    The offense was awake on Sunday morning as well.The Blugolds led 4-0 until the bottom of the fourth inning. Rongstad, Johnson and Mikayla McEnery, first-year outfielder, supplied multiple hits and a run each.

    Though they scored once in the bottom of the fourth and twice in the final inning, St. Catherine’s efforts to make a comeback fell short.

    CSB proved a challenge for the Blugolds: The Minnesotan team defeated Eau Claire 9-5 on Sunday afternoon.

    However, the Blugolds didn’t fall easily. Until CSB’s comeback, Eau Claire kept a narrow lead of the game. The fifth, sixth and seventh innings were productive for CSB — a total of seven runs were produced between the three.

    Offensively, Rongstad added two more hits to her successful 4-for-7 batting day. Varian also contributed two of the total eight hits Eau Claire made during the game.

    Both Raffel, one of the team’s captains, and Head Coach Leslie Huntington said the team gained insight from the final game of the tournament.

    “We learned we have to find a second and third pitcher,” Huntington said.

    Peka, the starting pitcher, had taken a break from pitching during the game against CSB. This left the Blugolds without a strong pitcher and led to CSB’s game-winning offensive showing.

    Despite the loss, Raffel said she was glad to get back on the “open field.” Raffel and the rest of the team now look forward to spring break, when the Blugold women’s softball team will travel to Clermont, Florida to compete in a 14-game open.