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June 22, 2024

Falcons split in four home games

March 29, 2007

The UW-River Falls softball team went 2-2 in four surprise home games after a tournament the Falcons were scheduled to compete in was canceled due to inclement weather.

The Falcons were originally scheduled to play four games in the Coe College tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Division III rules state that a team can only play 40 regular season games. Head coach Faye Perkins had scheduled the full amount for her team, but the tournament cancellation left her with four open slots that she quickly filled.

Perkins put together a small round-robin tournament with the Gustavus Adolphus Gusties and the St. Scholastica Saints on Saturday at Ramer Field and scheduled a doubleheader with the Concordia College Cobbers for Tuesday.

The Falcons won the first game against Concordia 4-1, but dropped the second 2-0.

The first game against Concordia was scoreless until the home half of the fourth inning. Falcons third baseman Emily Howlett got River Falls started with a single up the middle. First baseman Keri Feller followed with a high, windswept, fly ball to right that was misplayed and dropped for a single. Howlett took third and Feller took second on Concordia right fielder Abby Brundidge’s throwing error. Catcher Ashley James laid down a bunt, driving in the first run of the inning. James was safe at first and took second on fielder’s indifference. The Falcons would score three more in the inning after RBI singles by Rachel Mathias and Amanda Peters.

The Falcons closed out the game allowing one run when reigning WIAC pitcher of the week Ashley Bertrand surrendered a home run to Concordia second baseman Anna Bjorlin. The Cobbers only managed three hits in the game. Bjorlin had two of them.

In the second game of the doubleheader Cobbers head coach Bob Bartel decided to bat Bjorlin in the leadoff slot. The move paid off as Bjorlin tripled to start the game and scored on a Melissa Bergdall single.

The Falcons couldn’t put anything together in the second game against the Cobbers as pitcher Mandy Turba went the distance to get the shutout win for Concordia.

On Saturday the team won its first game over the Saints 7-1 and dropped the second game to the Gusties 3-2. Gustavus also topped the Saints 2-0 in the middle game of the round-robin mini-tournament.

The mini-home tournament was planned less than 24 hours before the first game was played. The two games were the first home games of the season for the Falcons.

Perkins decided to throw the mini-tournament together after talking with UW-Stout softball coach Chris Stainer, who scheduled a last-second doubleheader with St. Mary’s University, who had also been scheduled to play in Cedar Rapids. The Falcons, Gusties, Saints, Stout and St. Mary’s were all scheduled to compete in the Coe tournament.

In both games on Saturday the Falcons struck first and led 2-0 after one inning, though the team took very different routes in securing the early leads.

Bertrand got off to a good start in both contests, blanking the top of the lineup for the Saints and Gusties.

In the bottom half of the first against the Saints, Falcons shortstop and leadoff hitter Mindy Rudiger singled and took second on an error by center fielder Erica Kozacek to start the inning. She advanced to third after second baseman Breamber Syverson laid down a sacrifice bunt.
Howlett struck out for only the second time this season, putting the pressure on Feller to get the Falcons on the board. Feller worked the count to 2-2 when she turned on a rise-ball from Saints pitcher Amy Jansen and deposited it on the other side of the Ramer Field fence to give the Falcons the early 2-0 advantage.

“I was just looking to make contact,” Feller said. “I got lucky I guess.”

Against the Gusties, Feller again was the key to first inning success. With two outs and Syverson on third, Feller walked and subsequently took off for second after getting the signal from first base coach Jody (Porter) Gabriel on a play the team often works on. Feller took second, forcing a throw, which allowed Syverson to score from third. Feller then took third on a wild throw to home plate.

The run came at a price when Feller twisted her ankle sliding into second base. She then had to be lifted for pinch runner Lundgren, but returned to the game in the bottom of the first.

With two outs, James came to the plate and delivered an RBI single on a 2-2 count to give the Falcons a 2-0 lead.

The Falcons have outscored their opponents 21-5 in the first inning so far this season.

“We’ve got a great top half of the lineup,” Perkins said after the St. Scholastica game. “When they’re doing well, we’re gonna score.”

Their quick strike offense is one of the reasons for the Falcons 13-5 record this season.

“When we score in the first inning we are hard to beat,” Perkins said.

Fellers home run was a big momentum boost against the Saints.

“That just picked us up and made it harder for them,” Perkins said.

The Falcons never lost the lead against the Saints, who scored the team’s only run of the game in the third inning.

The first inning was the lone bright spot for the Falcons against DeWitz and the Gusties. James’ first inning single would turn out to be the only hit of the game for UWRF.

The fourth inning score also seems to be a good barometer for the Falcons so far this season. In all 13 of the team’s wins, they have held a lead after four innings of play. In the five losses, the Falcons have either been tied or trailing after four.

Filling the schedule was vital for the Falcons, Perkins said. Without it, the team would have had a 17-day layoff before the conference opener.

“We definitely needed to play,” Perkins said.

The game against the Gusties was an especially good warm up for the upcoming conference season, Perkins said. The Gusties, now 8-2, had been ranked as high as 12 in Division III by the National Fast-pitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll this season. The team was unranked in the most recent NCFA poll.

Gustavus also plays a very similar style to all the teams in the WIAC, Perkins said after the game. She was not satisfied with her team’s performance against the Gusties.

“We came out strong, then we just sat on that,” she said. “I don’t think the team is satisfied [either].”

The Falcons next scheduled game is the conference opener against Stout at 3 p.m. April 3 at Ramer Field.

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