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Softball begins season with strong showing in dome games

Shannan Borchardt (19) led the Falcons with eight hits this weekend at UWRF's Rochester Dome games. Kathy Helgeson/University Communications

March 7, 2018

The Falcons softball team graduated only one senior last season, returning five seniors with multiple years of experience and three all-conference players on the team.

Their leadership was on display this weekend in Rochester, Minn., with the Falcons going 3-1 and outscoring their opponents 43-15 in their four games in the Rochester Dome.

“Us seniors have played together for the last four years, and the chemistry is strong,” senior outfielder Shannan Borchardt said. “We have all of us together in the lineup, and that chemistry will really help the team be successful.”

Borchardt said that as a senior she’s been through it all, which helped the team to get off to such a fast start this season. She said they usually don’t have much success in their dome games, but the addition of nine new freshman and a strong lineup has been important.

“Each one of (the seniors) brings a ton of experience and three of the five are all-conference players,” head coach Amber Dohlman said. “They all have been a starter for more than one year and have worked hard this last offseason.”

The team’s main goal is to make the conference tournament for the first time in the past few seasons. This will give them an opportunity to reach the NCAA tournament.

While youth has been one of the recurring themes in past seasons, this senior class is one of the biggest in the last four years.

“There’s only one freshman in the lineup, and everyone else had a year of playing experience,” Dohlman said. “We’ve been talking a lot about being champions and being at the top, and they took that mentality into the games.

The Falcons came out with their bats already in midseason form against Knox College, with 15 runs on 16 hits. Seven different UWRF players recorded at least two hits, and Ali Krohn led the way with four RBIs.

Borchardt and Amber Galloway each had three hits and three runs in their 10-2 win over Ripon College. UWRF came back the next day to win 16-3 over Beloit College by only allowing one hit. Krohn and Borchardt each added four hits, and the Falcons recorded their third-straight game of closing their opponent out in less than six innings.

The game against Cornell was a tougher battle, as UWRF came up short 3-2. They only managed to get five hits in their second game on Sunday, but Dohlman still thinks their bats will be what gets them out of tough spots this season.

“We only had one strikeout the whole weekend,” Dohlman said. “We were hitting it to people against Cornell and there weren’t gaps in that game. It wasn’t because of a lack of contact, but the good hits were making it to people.”

The Falcons usually open up their season by playing a top-25 ranked team, but instead faced more teams closer to their level in past years to ease into the season. Dohlman saw steady progress and was happy to see things she can’t when they’re practicing indoors at Knowles.

The weekend was the first opportunity for the group to come together and get innings as an official team. With nine new freshmen, Borchardt said there is still a learning curve.

“The younger girls realized that you’re going to play back to back games and some with an hour between games,” Borchardt said. “The challenge with that is being ready to go after you’ve had a game break and you’re tired. Going to Florida is important for our team to know we have to be prepared and bounce back from the game breaks. I think we will do really well in Florida.”

Borchardt said that the stacked lineup the team has to offer will be one of the biggest threats. The pitching has also improved, with Payton Speckel entering her third year  and second as the main starter. Maddie Studnicka will also provide relief when she isn’t playing first base.

“In the offseason we were hitting live a lot and we were prepared from our pitchers,” Borchardt said. “Payton has worked really hard in the offseason and her speed changed and her balls are moving more. I thinks she’s really going to lead us to success this year.”

Borchardt added that this weekend helped the team realize that they can go consecutive games playing very well.

“In the last game we had trouble stringing bats together,” Borchardt said. “That was against more of an experienced pitcher, so we’re going to have to face pitchers that don’t just throw balls down the middle. We will hit off Payton in practice and get ready to see some of those better teams in the WIAC.”

The Falcons would have had seven home runs over the weekend, but they only count as doubles in the dome. Hitting the ceiling is also an automatic out. Playing in the dome is always a much different experience than the rest of the season, according to Dohlman.

“Defense is always tough playing on turf versus dirt; there’s definitely a different feel to it,” Dohlman said. “We just need to get used to not being in gym floors and on turf.”

Dohlman has been pleased with the pitching and the added depth. She also thought that it was important for the players to each get a hit in the first game of the season.

“When you can get that behind you, it changes the way they are when they step into that box,” Dohlman said. “It was a confidence boosting weekend, and it’s definitely carrying over. They’re not questioning their ability and they know they can compete and play.”

The Falcons will travel to Florida over spring break for the PFX games, where they will play 12 games in only seven days.

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