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Falcons end Rebel Games on high note

April 2, 2009

If there is one disadvantage of having a softball team in the Midwest it would be the weather, but the Falcons showed no signs of rust when they won seven of 10 games in Florida in a span of five days at the Rebel Spring Games.

“At the end we played a lot better,” UW-River Falls Head Coach Jody Gabriel said. “We came out 7-3, which I am happy about. It took us a few games to get going, but we did well.”

The Falcons had several games prior, but they were played at the Rosemount Dome in Rosemount, Minn.

“Obviously it’s a different game playing in the dome,” Gabriel said. “So it was important for us to get down to Florida and play some games outside.”

For Mindy Rudiger, who is in her last season, it is about the natural elements that UWRF needs to get used to.

“It was good to see some sun and light down there,” she said. “For us being up here, it was important to get in a lot of games. Being able to see the ball in sunlight and just being outside is big for us. Now we come back and we see snow.”

UWRF struggled on its first day on March 15 losing to Illinois Wesleyan 5-0 followed by a 17-2 drubbing from William Patterson University (N.J.).

Rudiger said the Falcons learned a lot about themselves as the games went on.

“Started out pretty rough at the start,” she said. We weren’t playing our game, but as the week went on we started to learn how to play as a team. We built a lot of cohesion and played better down the stretch.”

The Falcons won seven of their final eight games after and the last six in Florida in a variety of different ways.

UWRF put together a blow out game of its own when it beat Rutger-Newark (N.J.) 13-0 on March 17.

It also had to grind out a tough win against Massachusetts College 3-1.

“It did not matter what the situation was,” Gabriel said. “If we were ahead by a lot or if it was a close game, we wanted to make sure we got quality at bats every time we were up.”

Spending a week with just teammates, Rudiger said the trip to Florida was more than just playing games.

“It was an important part of the season,” she said. “We spend a lot of time together and we learn a lot about each other.”

Being one of only three seniors on the team, Rudiger is one of the leaders and is showing so by example in the early stages of the season.

She leads the team in several batting statistics which include home runs (5), runs batted in (RBI) (19), and slugging percentage (.667).

“It’s important to show a lot of the younger players that you have to go out and play hard,” she said. “You have to show them by playing well on the field. Our team has a lot of young players so it’s important to show them what it takes to be a good team.”

In the final four games of the Rebel Spring Games, UWRF won 5-0 against Nichols College (Mass.), 5-3 over Millikin University (Ill.), 4-0 against Anderson University (Ind.) and a 4-1 against Fontbonne University (Miss.).

Last weekend, UWRF played in the Augastana Invitational Tournament on the Augustana College (Ill.) campus, in what was supposed to be a four game tournament.

However, heavy snow blanketed the area and the final two games were cancelled and will not be made up.

The Falcons were able to get two games in and won both, extending their winning streak to eight.

In the first game on Saturday, UWRF beat Ripon College (Wis.) 7-3, with the help of some power from Sarah Fern, who connected for her third home run of the season, a three run blast, and Rudiger hit her fifth of the season in the first inning to give the Falcons an early lead.

In the second game, UWRF beat Grinnel College (Iowa) in dominating fashion behind a five hit, one walk and one earned run pitching performance by Rose Tusa.

She struck out five batters in what was her fourth win of the season.

The Falcons will began WIAC play against UW-Eau Claire on Thursday. They will have their first home game of the season against UW-Whitewater on Saturday and have UW-Oshkosh in town the following day.