Close games result in first WIAC wins for Falcon softball
The Falcons softball team had a strong home opener on Saturday, April 8, taking down UW-Stevens Point 9-8 and 6-4 to sweep the Pointers and collect its first WIAC wins of the year.
Both games came down to the wire, being about as close as can be on the scoreboard. Game one was a back and forth affair, with neither team being able to hold the lead for more than an inning.
UWRF put the game out of reach when it got its bats working in the fifth inning. Ali Murray, Mady Bunnell and Shannan Borchardt all scored to give the Falcons a 9-6 lead.
“Our hitting has really started to come together, and we were really locked in this past weekend. Our hitting was explosive, and we had the fight and the want to win,” Head Coach Amber Dohlman said.
The second game was a completely different tale, with UW-River Falls trailing throughout and not being able to find its way around the bases until the seventh inning. But once Amber Galloway hit her second homer of the afternoon, the momentum shifted in favor of the Falcons.
“We didn’t give up and kept fighting even though we were down most of the innings. We knew we could get it back and never gave up in extras,” sophomore pitcher Payton Speckel said.
The hitting may have been lacking in the first six innings, but Dohlman had confidence they still had a chance to even the game back up.
“It’s trusting that they were still swinging the bats hard but it was going to people. You have to continue what you’re doing and battle through it. We went back to Payton, and she shut it down and carried the team,” Dohlman said.
Three additional runs followed Galloway’s solo home run in the seventh, pushing the game to extra innings. Speckel continued her inspiring performance by allowing no runs in the crucial eighth inning. Speckel threw three strikeouts and allowed only three hits and no earned runs in her 3.2 innings of action in game two.
“I’m a lot more confident [this year] that I can strike out some of those girls. Shutting down those first two batters in that seventh inning was big,” Speckel said.
With the game on the line, Galloway stepped up to be the hero of the day and drilled a walk-off home run to left field to seal the sweep of Stevens Point. It was Galloway’s third home run in only two games, and it couldn’t have come at a more clutch time.
“Everything was working for [Galloway]. She hasn’t switched a lot of things from last year but has been swinging the bat hard and taking her cuts. She’s on cloud nine right now,” Dohlman said.
Galloway added her fourth home run of the weekend against No. 5 ranked Luther College on Sunday. The Falcons may have lost the series 3-5 and 0-10, but the team is making progress against top-ranked teams. The Falcons only lost by a combined four runs in two games against No. 9 ranked UW-Eau Claire last Wednesday.
“We’ve hung with two top 10 teams, and playing teams like this is only preparing us [for the WIAC]. We’re not just outplaying easy teams, and in the long run, it matters for competing in conference. I hope it gives us confidence that we can hang with the best of them,” Dohlman said.
The Falcons will finally have a chance to use their home-field advantage in the coming weeks as they compete against the rest of their conference opponents. They may be on the rise, but Speckel says they still need to improve to succeed in a competitive WIAC season.
“We can come out stronger in the first inning of each game by setting the tone and the momentum for the rest of the games. Even after that first game, you have to come out with a different attitude and pick yourself up to fight for the next one as if it was an entirely new game on a different day,” Speckel said.
The Falcons now sit at 8-15 overall and 2-2 in WIAC play. UWRF returns to WIAC action on Friday when it takes on UW-Stout in a doubleheader in River Falls. Game one starts at 2 p.m.