UW-Eau Claire baseball takes first losses of the season

    Blugolds getting young team acclimated as they prep for conference play

    Charley+Griffin%2C+a+third-year+pitcher%2C+got+the+start+on+the+mound+for+the+Blugolds+in+game+two+against+Augustana.

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    Charley Griffin, a third-year pitcher, got the start on the mound for the Blugolds in game two against Augustana.

    After winning their first two games of the season on opening weekend, the UW-Eau Claire baseball team took their first losses of the season last week, falling to Carleton College and losing a doubleheader to Augustana College.

    Thursday vs Carleton 

    The Blugolds traveled to US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday, March 10 to face Carleton College, losing 10-2.

    Justin Coronado, a first-year pitcher, got the start on the mound for the Blugolds. 

    After pitching three scoreless innings to start the game, Carleton answered with four runs in the fourth inning, knocking out Coronado after three and one-third innings pitched and two earned runs.

    UW-Eau Claire answered by scoring one run in the fourth inning and again in the fifth, but Carleton extended their lead by scoring three more in the sixth.

    Carleton went on to score 10 runs on 15 hits for the game, beating the Blugolds 10-2.

    David Janssen, a second-year outfielder, led the Blugolds on offense with two hits and a run batted in.

    Doubleheader vs. Augustana

    The Blugolds returned to the road on Sunday, March 13 to Swanson Stadium in Moline, Ill. for a doubleheader against Augustana College. 

    In game one, Augustana scored seven unanswered runs in the first three innings. Matt Moore, a second-year pitcher, got the start on the mound for the Blugolds, giving up five earned runs in two innings pitched. 

    Augustana added one more run in the fifth inning and two more in the seventh, beating UW-Eau Claire 10-0 in seven innings.

    UW-Eau Claire led off the scoring in game two, as Otto Treichel, a third-year third baseman, drove in two runs on a single in the first inning.

    The Blugolds extended their lead to three in the second inning, as Andrew Murphy, a first-year outfielder, hit his first career home run.

    Augustana took the lead from the Blugolds at the bottom of the second, amassing five runs in the inning to gain a 5-3 lead.

    They extended their lead in the next couple of innings, scoring one run in third, two in the fourth and one in the fifth to extend the lead to 9-3.

    The Blugolds answered in the seventh inning, as Cade Mueller, a second-year catcher, hit a two-run home run and Nate Witte, a second-year outfielder, knocked in an RBI double.

    However, Augustana scored two more in the bottom of the seventh, and they held on to win 11-6 in game two.

    Charles Bolden, UW-Eau Claire’s head coach, said he liked how aggressive the Blugold hitters were in game two. He said they took better swings and weren’t letting fastballs go early in counts. 

    Charley Griffin, a third-year pitcher, got the start for the Blugolds in this game, surrendering eight earned runs in three and two thirds innings pitched.

    Bolden said the score did not reflect how well Griffin pitched. Bolden said Griffin excels at throwing strikes, working quick and not overthinking the moment.

    He said they had lots of bad luck in the game which led to the score getting out of hand, like giving up three hits that never left the infield or touched dirt.

    “The score is just not reflective at all of how the games are going,” Bolden said. “We outplayed Augustana, a team that won 30 games last year.”

    He said little mistakes like base-running also kept them from winning in game two.

    Preparing for conference play

    As the Blugolds enter year two of the baseball program, Bolden said they have better talent than year one but will still have a “learning curve” due to lack of experience.

    Bolden said there are only nine returners from last season on this year’s 39-man roster, which he described as “almost a new overhaul.”

    In the program’s first season last year, they fielded a roster of mostly first and second-year players, which is the case this season as well, as there are only four upperclassmen on the roster.

    Bolden said it will take a while for all the young players to get acclimated to the collegiate level, and he is learning more about his players every day on the field.

    “It’s a process,” Bolden said. “It’s learning every day to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our team as well as them as individuals and what they can do to contribute to what we’re doing.”

    He said they are evaluating the players as a coaching staff by putting them in positions in games to have opportunities and seeing who takes advantage.

    “We try to create a culture here that’s really competitive and constantly making guys feel like their work is valued and appreciated every day,” Bolden said.

    According to Bolden, a huge part of evaluating the players is figuring out who can “slow the game down” and handle the pressure in the moment.

    Their young team is learning in these early stages of the season how to deal with success and failure on the field, Bolden said.

    “With such a young team, you’re constantly trying to change the mindset and get them to stay with it and understand that it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Bolden said.

    Cole Hinkel, a first-year pitcher, said one of the reasons he chose UW-Eau Claire was the opportunity to be a part of building the legacy of a new program, along with the passion of the coaches.

    He said the team will continue to get better as the season goes on and they gain the experience of playing more games.

    “I feel like since we have a lot of new guys, everyone’s feeling those jitters out and we’re starting to come together, so it’s very exciting so far,” Hinkel said.

    He said playing on such a young team is a huge difference for everyone from high school when generally the juniors and seniors got the most playing time and everyone had to work their way up.

    Hinkel said the opportunity for everyone to come in and get playing time right away has been a unique opportunity and created an exciting, competitive environment every day in practice.

    “All our practices are really competitive,” Hinkel said. “Everybody has that in the back of their head that we all have to be ready to play at some point.”

    They are still continuing to grow as a team but they already have a strong rapport with each other which is an important key to success on the field, he said.

    The Blugolds return to the field on Sunday, March 20 in Auburndale, Fl. against Colby College.

    They will open conference play on Saturday, March 26 on the road against UW-Oshkosh.

    Janssen can be reached at [email protected].