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Superior ends season for Falcon softball team

May 7, 2009

Despite wins in its first two games of the WIAC Tournament, including one against No. 4-ranked UW-Whitewater, the UW-River Falls softball season ended after a loss to the host school UW-Superior 9-3.

Superior finished the WIAC regular season with a 2-13 record, but managed to score four runs in the third inning after a Chelsey Jarzin grand slam, which put the Falcons away for good, ultimately ending its season.

“We beat the big teams we faced,” UWRF Head Coach Jody Gabriel said. “But Superior had our number and we couldn’t get past them.

Beating both Eau Claire and Whitewater, who are both headed to post season play on at-large bids, were big wins that proved we can compete with the best in Div. III softball.

Senior Mindy Rudiger, who played in her final collegiate game last weekend, said teams do not know what to expect from Superior.

“Superior is an interesting team,” Rudiger said. “They didn’t play well in the season, but they hit the ball hard and that grand slam really hurt us.”

UWRF did not leave without some fireworks however, after beating regular season conference champion Whitewater in its second game 5-2. The Falcons scored four runs in the first two innings and took advantage of five Whitewater errors to win the game. “That was an amazing game,” Rudiger said.

“We got some runs early and Rose [Tusa] pitched a great game for us.”

Tusa, a freshman, pitched the whole game for the Falcons and did not give up an earned run.

She also helped her cause in the second inning with a home run to center field. Two batters later, catcher Patty Olson picked a great moment for her first collegiate home run, sending a line drive shot over the left field fence. That was all Tusa neededÑshe allowed seven hits, struck out five and walked one batter for the game. 

Rudiger was unable to break the WIAC record for most career collegiate home runs of 38.

She tied the record on April 28 against St. Mary’s University (Minn.). 

The record is shared by UW-Eau Claire’s Cassey Leisgang (2005-08) and Superior’s Sarah Tarasesicz (2002-05).

Rudiger’s power at the plate will be absent next season as her collegiate career has now come to a close, but others have picked up the slack. “Mindy Rudiger has been a great athlete and a very hard worker,” Gabriel said.

“There are big spots to fill, but as a team we will work together to be the best team we can be regardless of who is wearing the jersey.”

The last four seasons have been nothing short of amazing, Rudiger said.

For her, they will always be remembered. “I will never forget these last four years,” she said. “They have been the most fun I have ever had. They really have been special to me.”

UWRF had a young team this season, which included 11 freshmen.

One of them was Sarah Fern, who was a force this season with five home runs and 51 runs batted in (RBI), second only to Rudiger’s 12 home runs and 56 RBI. In addition to Fern, the other freshmen gained valuable playing experience, which they might not have received if they were on a more experience club.

This is one reason why Gabriel said the future should be bright for the Falcons.

“I think the program has a very solid foundation for years to come,” she said. “2010 Falcon softball expects to contend for a conference championship and earn the postseason bid we have just missed the last three years.”

First-year assistant coach and former pitcher for the Falcons, Brittany Rathbun, said coming into the season with a team as young as the Falcons were, it is hard to determine from a coaching standpoint, how it would do.

“With so many freshmen, it’s tough to really know what to expect,” she said. “Our team really came together and played well, especially at the WIAC tournament. I couldn’t have asked for a better tournament.

We sent both Eau Claire and Whitewater home, which was a huge accomplishment. If anything, it really proved what this group of individuals can do with a little more time and experience. I thought the year went exceptionally well.”

UWRF had two games prior to the elimination games.

It beat UW-Eau Claire in the first game 7-6, but lost to Superior in the second 7-0. The 1-1 record pitted the Falcons against UW-Stevens Point. 

The Falcons played the Pointers in the first game of the elimination round and won 10-5. Tusa won this game also, striking out seven and allowing six hits with one walk.

UWRF scored five runs in the second inning, highlighted by Fern’s bases loaded double, which scored Olson, Jessica Lundgren and Rudiger.

Even though the Falcons fell short of its goal of reaching the postseason, Gabriel said the 2009 year was a good one. “I think we had a good season,” she said.

“We did not reach our team goal of earning a banner and getting to postseason, but we were only two games short of it. We got better every day and peaked at the end where we fought hard through the conference tournament. Overall, 2009 was successful for Falcon softball.”