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Falcons seeded first in WIAC tournament

May 5, 2011

The Falcons softball team clinched the WIAC conference championship after sweeping UW-Oshkosh Tuesday at Ramer Field.

The Falcons finished the regular season with a 13-3 conference record, and 22-13 overall.

By clinching the WIAC conference championship, the Falcons ensured that the WIAC conference tournament will be played at River Falls.

Falcon head coach Jody Gabriel said that the team’s expectations heading into the tournament are nothing less then a conference championship.

“The postseason is a new season, so we set new goals,” she said. “A win in the conference championship would secure an automatic bid to the national tournament.”

Falcon pitcher Rose Tusa attributed her team’s success to the athleticism and versatility the Falcons have.

“The biggest contributing factor to our success it the great versatility and depth in our team,” she said. “Our offense has been excellent and not just the nine starters, but everybody whether pinch hitting or sac bunting.”

Gabriel also won her 100 career game as the Falcon’s head coach on Sunday May 1 with come from behind wins in both legs of a doubleheader sweep over UW-Whitewater. She said that expectations have changed over the four years she was head coach of the program.

Gabriel was with the team as a player until 1994 and was an assistant coach for five seasons.

The WIAC tournament is a double elimination tournament that begins with seeding from the first seed to the sixth seed. Only six of the teams in the WIAC make the tournament.

Because the Falcons were the number one seed in the playoffs, they will play UW-Oshkosh at 10 a.m. on Friday.

Tusa said as long as the team keeps playing the way it is, they should have a successful tournament.

“I feel that our chance is good, as long as we keep playing like we have,” she said. “Our bats have been on and our defense is solid. If we keep focus and play our game we can win the tournament.”

The Falcons, who swept the Titans this week, are 2-0 against them on the season.

Gabriel said that they are preparing for the first round matchup by continuing to improve on their playing skills.

“We need to focus on chasing excellence,” she said. “We expect that every game is going to be a battle.

She also said that the conference is deep, and that any team can win a game on any day.

Because the tournament is double elimination, teams have a cushion to lose games, but teams with a loss need to win more games to get to the championship.

“The losing bracket takes more out of you,” said Gabriel. “We’ve been successful, but we have new goals to meet, like working to the postseason,” she said.

The first three games of the tournament are Friday at 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. The first round of the losers bracket takes place at 4 p.m. between the losers of game 1 and 2.

The championship game of the tournament will take place Sunday afternoon at Ramer Field, with the earliest start time being noon.

The NCAA Div. III softball tournament begins May 12, with the regional host being UW-Eau Claire.