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UWRF softball bounces back from slow start during spring break tournament

March 22, 2017

The Falcon softball team made big strides on its spring break tournament in Florida from March 12-18. The team faced stiff competition and managed to rebound from its tough start to the season to post a 5-6 record over break by playing 11 games in six days.

UWRF faces the challenge of rebuilding this season with many new faces in unfamiliar roles. Ali Murray is the only senior on the roster, with six juniors joining her as upperclassman. Beyond that, it has been the task of the younger players and pitching staff learning to step up their play.

“It’s a lot of learning, and they’ve been exposed to a lot of things. You can see the improvement through them,” Head Coach Amber Dohlman said. “The young pitchers have been rocky at times but came back strong throughout the week [of spring break].”

Young faces have been leading the charge for hitting in the early parts of the season.  Freshman Lexi Dupee is the team leader in batting average at .422, while sophomore Ali Krohn leads the team in hits, RBIs and total bases.

“We’re young and still figuring things out and where people are going, but we’re still being led by a sophomore and a freshman,” Dohlman said. “We’re seeing a lot of growing with that, and this team is going to come out and battle.”

The Falcons have struggled in their first two innings of games this year, being outscored 31-5. But their biggest performance of the whole trip actually came in a 12-1 loss against Trine College. Trine was ranked No. 10 in the country, coming in undefeated and with over 20 home runs to their name in their first 14 games.

But UW-River Falls didn’t back down, holding the game at 2-1 through the first two innings and responding to Trine’s level of play. A bad third inning let the game get out of hand, but their early play could be a sign for things to come.

“In that moment where we competed with them, everyone was into the game and doing their job. Everyone was picking each other up and, if we play that way, we can be successful,” Krohn said.

Dohlman said she was also impressed with the team’s play and the way it came out ready to play from the start. She said she believes the pitching and batting are starting to mesh together, but the Falcons can’t continue to afford giving up 10-run innings like they did against Trine.

“We’re competing against teams, but we have to clean up the one bad inning. If we take away the walks we’re right there with it,” Dohlman said. “We need to keep moving people around [the bases], and our defense has gotten better.”

The spring break trip was also good for the confidence of the Falcons. After playing four tough games to start the year, the team has finally settled down and started to see some success.

“It gives us assurance that we are a good team and how our play should be at a certain level,” Murray said. “Our performance and getting those wins has been needed to show [where we’re at].”

Krohn has also found a bit of individual success by extending her hitting streak to 11 games after UWRF’s final victory against Washington and Jefferson College. This hitting streak includes every game down in Florida.

“The first couple of games in Florida, I was hitting eighth or ninth in the lineup, so I didn’t start at third, and I was really surprised when they put me there,” Krohn said. “Giving me that opportunity is really helping, and I’m getting excited for other players and seeing the ball better so far this year. I also made the decision this year to just have fun instead of worrying.”

But even with a young team starting to find success, they aren’t taking anything for granted.

“We’re always looking to improve on everything that we’re doing,” Krohn said. “It could be looking for more runs, eliminating extra runs [for opponents] or if we had errors. We work on every little aspect because, if you focus too much on one thing, you miss other parts.”

This strong team bond is what’s going to be necessary to carry the players through a tough WIAC conference. Selfless ball is being stressed strongly on this team, with Dohlman and players having more of a focus on working together to be better individually in order to get more team wins. Turning the season around will also be easier once the Falcons host their first games at their field as it enters its second year of use.

“Our new facility and field is amazing and is one of the top ones in the WIAC,” Murray said. “The whole feel of getting to play out there with our fans and walk up songs will help us play better.”

The 5-10 Falcons now travel to St. Mary’s University on Saturday for a doubleheader, with game one starting at 1 p.m. UWRF will host its first games of the year against UW-Stevens Point on April 8.

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