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Softball team ready for WIAC tournament

May 3, 2007

After proving preseason predictions wrong and accomplishing many of the team goals, the UW-River Falls softball team is preparing to take on its biggest challenge of the season, the WIAC tournament.

The double elimination tournament will take place Friday and Saturday in Eau Claire, Wis.

The Falcons were predicted to finish seventh, according to a poll conducted by the WIAC sports information directors, and ended up clinching third place after defeating UW-Whitewater 14-7 April 29.

“I think we surprised a few people,” head coach Faye Perkins said.

The Falcons finished the regular season with a record of 30-10 after beating St. Mary’s University 3-2 and 2-1 in a double header Wednesday at Ramer Field. The first win over St. Mary’s was significant in that it established a new single season record.

That wasn’t the only single season record broken this season. Shortstop Mindy Rudiger established a new home run mark with 10 round-trippers and is three runs scored away from establishing a runs scored mark, she currently has 41.

Third baseman Emily Howlett established a new doubles record with 15 and if she can hold her current .446 batting average above .429, she will set a new mark. Howlett is also 4 hits away from another single season record.

Second baseman Breamber Syverson set a record with 22 sacrifice bunts.

Pitcher Ashley Bertrand broke her own single season strikeout record of 124 by punching out 140 opposing batter this season.

The third seeded Falcons, 11-5 in WIAC play and 28-10 overall, will take on sixth seeded UW-Superior, 6-10 in WIAC play 18-20 overall, in their first game of the tournament. The Falcons swept the Yellowjackets April 25, in Superior, winning the first game 5-3 in eight innings and the second game 13-6. Their opponent in the second game could be any of four other WIAC teams depending on the results of first round games.

Despite accomplishing one of the team’s primary goals this season, setting a new single season win record, the Falcons are not satisfied.

“I don’t think you should ever be satisfied with not winning your conference,” Perkins said.

The Falcons have cooled off quite a bit after a hot start. After starting the season 23-5 they have gone 7-5 over the past 10 games.

Perkins said the teams recent struggles have more to do with a difficult schedule than the team playing poorly.

“Our conference has some of the toughest competition in Division III,” she said. “Our conference is known for doing well outside the conference and then getting into conference play and beating each other up. I think that our schedule was pretty optimal. We had some of our toughest games at the end.”

That difficult schedule and some of the team’s struggles down the stretch could be a positive.

“Now we know what we have to do to win in the postseason conference tournament,” Perkins said.

With the season winding down, the Falcons are also thinking about a possible NCAA D-III tournament berth, which expanded its field of teams from 48 to 59 this year. The winner of the WIAC tournament will get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Regular season WIAC champion UW-Oshkosh, 15-1 in the WIAC 29-7 overall, will likely get a tournament bid regardless of its finish in the WIAC. Stevens Point, 13-3 in WIAC play 30-6 overall, is also likely to get in as long as they don’t lose the first two games in the WIAC tournament. That means the Falcons will likely need to win the WIAC tournament to get into the NCAA tournament.

There won’t be any changes made to the lineup or the pitching staff during the WIAC tournament. The only thing Perkins said she hopes to see change is that utility player Jessica Lundgren can return from injury to contribute as a pinch runner.