UWEC softball season kicks off first Saturday in March

    Women’s softball kicks off with four games in two days in Rochester

    More stories from Taylor Hagmann


    Photo by Can Stock Photo

    The UW-Eau Claire softball team is gearing up for the season

    Football season is over and hockey season is well underway, but softball season is only just about to start.

    The UW-Eau Claire Softball team opens the season this weekend at a dome tournament in Rochester, Minn, Coach Leslie Huntington, who has been with the team for 18 years, said.

    The Blugolds will start out by playing the University of Dubuque on Saturday, followed by Rockford College later that same day. The very next day, they will have another two games — the first against Gustavus Adolphus, and the latter against St. Catherine. It will be a busy two days, Huntington said.

    The team won 21 games last year and lost 18, according to blugolds.com. And while Huntington said the team “likes the challenge of being the underdog,” they “don’t want to be average.”

    Gretchen Arneson, a third-year catcher, has been on the team since her first year at UW-Eau Claire. She said they have a good team this year and they’re “looking forward to winning.”

    “This team is very driven, but I’m not the most important leader,” Coach Huntington said.

    Coach Huntington said she believes it’s the student leaders who are carrying the team. There are five fourth-years this year and they have all stepped up to the plate, becoming natural leaders, Huntington said. She believes that this, along with having pitchers who are third-years, is what makes this year’s team strong.

    Sarah Peka is one of those pitchers. Peka, a third-year student, has been on the team since her first year. Peka said this year they have a “well-rounded team, with a lot of depth,” and she’s looking forward to escaping the cold when the team goes to Florida for a tournament over spring break.

    But Florida isn’t the only goal — the team has been working to improve their game, Huntington said.

    Last year, there were only two fourth-year athletes on the team, but Huntington said she thinks this year, the team will benefit from having more members who are older.

    “Our offense is better this year, which helps take the pressure off of our pitchers,” Huntington said. “There’s also been an improvement on our short game — on bunting. And they’re more mature. That one year makes a difference.”

    The offense isn’t the only thing improving this year. Huntington said the enhancements to Simpson Field will make it feel “more like a stadium.” She just hopes the construction will be finished this summer.

    The regular softball season runs through Memorial Day. Players and coach alike said they hope to make it to the postseason and dream of making it to the National Championship.

    “It’s the end goal,” Huntington said.

    Hagmann can be reached at [email protected].