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Offense saves Falcon softball team

April 23, 2009

In what has been a season of ups and downs, it continued that way for the UW-River Falls softball team when it lost two games to UW-La Crosse 8-3 and 6-2, but came back to beat the WIAC’s worst team, UW-Platteville, 16-6 and 11-1. “We learned that we have to bring our best game whenever we play,” Falcon shortstop Mindy Rudiger said. “In the games against La Crosse, we had some mistakes, but we cleaned it up against Platteville.”

Last Friday in La Crosse, UWRF had a chance to gain more ground in the WIAC standings and put itself in one of the top spots for the conference playoffs, but four errors in the first game, followed by three more in the second game proved to be too costly for the Falcons.

“Our defense let us down,” UWRF Head Coach Jody Gabriel said. “In the first game our bats were decent, but we let in too many unearned runs. In the second game, Rose Tusa pitched very well, but our bats were quiet and our defense let us down again.”

The Falcons current WIAC record of 5-7 is behind La Crosse at 10-4, so two wins would have made the conference tournament picture that much more interesting for the teams in the middle of the pack. “We knew how big it was,” Rudiger said of the two losses against La Crosse.

“The cool thing is we can still win the conference tournament and get a shot in the NCAAs. Our goals have shifted to make sure we win the tournament.” The Eagles were able to take advantage of early mistakes in the first game, scoring all eight runs in the first three innings.

La Crosse was able to score runs on errors and manufacture them as a result of errors by UWRF. Of the eight runs scored in the first game, four were earned. In the second game of the doubleheader, the Falcons managed to get only three hits off of Eagles starting pitcher Kaylyn Von Glahn.

She pitched a complete game and allowed the two runs, both unearned, as La Crosse had four errors of its own, after the Eagles had a 6-0 lead in the sixth inning.  Tusa started the game for the Falcons and allowed only one earned run, because the rest were a result of three errors by her teammates, which haunted UWRF all day last Friday in the two game series sweep.

On Saturday, the Falcons were able to rebound, and got to play the perfect team for it in Platteville, who own the bottom spot in the WIAC standings with a 0-10 record. UWRF added two more tallies to the loss side by scoring 26 runs on 33 hits in the two game series. “It was very nice,” Rudiger said. “Took a lot of pressure off of us and we were able to relax, have fun and crush the ball.”

Rudiger and Sarah Fern were the offensive standouts for UWRF in the two-game slugfest. For the series, Rudiger went six-for-eight with a home run, her team leading sixth of the season, and six runs batted in (RBI). Fern was just as good, being perfect at the plate going six-for-six with a home run, her fourth of the year and six RBI of her own. “I didn’t even know about it until after the game,” Fern said of her perfect at-bats in the Platteville series.

“It is really hard to keep a smile off your face during a game like that.” After the series sweep, Gabriel said UWRF played much better than it did against La Crosse the day prior. “In Platteville we turned it around,” Gabriel said. “We had strong defense, solid pitching and excellent hitting. Thirty-three hits on the day is fantastic. It was a much needed conference sweep that will carry us into next week on a high note.”

UWRF has four games this week, including two against Hamline University (Minn.), which was on Thursday after this edition of the Student Voice went to print, and Friday against UW-Oshkosh. The regular season is winding down and wins are becoming even more important for playoff position in the WIAC tournament and the Falcons are ready for whatever is in store for them, Gabriel said.

“The team is ready for the challenge as we prepare for our conference tourney,” she said. UWRF’s final home game of the season is on April 25 against UW-Stevens Point. It closes out the regular season in a nonconference game April 28 at St. Mary’s University (Minn.).