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Softball team looks to finish season strong

April 18, 2014

After hitting a homerun, sophomore Abby Veloske makes her way to home plate where the team is waiting to celebrate her successful hit.
After hitting a homerun, sophomore Abby Veloske makes her way to home plate where the team is waiting to celebrate her successful hit. The doubleheader games were at UWRF on Saturday, April 12, against UW-Superior. Falcons won the first game but lost the second. (Maggie Sanders/Student Voice)

The UW-River Falls softball team heads into the final two weeks of the regular season with a 15-14 record, and a whopping WIAC-best 30 home runs.

The Falcons entered this week in fifth place in the WIAC with a 2-4 record, and 10 conference games remaining. The Falcons look to improve upon a sixth place finish in the WIAC last season, and a strong finish would accomplish that goal.

“We’ve played some really good softball, but we’ve been inconsistent,” said Faye Perkins, head softball coach. “We need to focus on playing consistent, good ball.”

A highly productive offense has won the Falcons a handful of games this spring as they are not only first in home runs, but also third in runs and hits, and second in doubles and runs batted in. The team is batting an astounding .316 on the season.

“Our offense is just on fire,” Perkins said. “We’re hitting .410 in the last six games.”

In fact, hitting is contagious in the WIAC this season. Six teams are batting over .300 and have hit at least 10 homeruns.

“Hitting has really changed,” Perkins said. “We have 30 home runs and our season isn’t even over. When I first started coaching, if we hit five, six or seven home runs in a year we would be happy.”

Junior pitcher and designated hitter Abbie Morris has clubbed 10 of the 30 Falcon homeruns this season, and is hitting a team-leading .407. Meanwhile, senior third baseman Sarah Bohlen is hitting .404 with five homeruns and 26 RBI’s; she always leads the Falcons in hits, doubles, walks and runs. Junior leadoff-hitting catcher Amber O’Connell also has five homeruns and is batting .359.

O’Connell had a particularly good afternoon on Sunday against Hamline University, where she belted two homeruns in one game. She homered in the team’s first at bat, then smashed one over the fence to put the Falcons in front for good in the fifth inning. The day before, the Falcons defeated UW-Superior, 13-12, with Morris and O’Connell both crushing three-run home runs in the sixth inning to erase a five-run deficit.

“Morris, Bohlen and O’Connell have been team leaders,” Perkins said. “Abbie (Morris) has 10 home runs, which is pretty phenomenal.”

The Falcons have a very young squad this season—13 of the 18 players are underclassmen, including eight freshman.

“There’s such a transition between high school and college ball,” Perkins said. “I don’t think people realize how such a transition can be. Part of the freshmen’s progress is just being a part of it, and seeing what college ball is about.”

Youth and inexperience may be one of the reasons the Falcons are giving up nearly an entire run more than in 2013, but with 10 WIAC games left in the season there is no need to panic.

“In high school you have more time to field the ball, more time to throw the ball,” Perkins said. “The college game is a fast game.”

Possibly another reason for the high team ERA could be the fact that Ashley Bertrand, fourth-year pitching coach, is on paternity leave.

“That has had an impact, I’m not a pitching coach,” Perkins said with a smile. “That why I hire a pitching coach.”

The cold weather is not helping the pitching staff either, as it has become extremely difficult for the Falcons to get warm before games and stay warm.

“The weather is uncontrollable, you have to prepare for it,” Perkins said. “We have hand warmers for everyone to use.”

All four games this week, two at home on Wednesday against UWEau Claire and two on Friday at UW-Whitewater, are in jeopardy of being rescheduled as low temperatures, possible rain and snow, and high wind gusts are expected on both game days. Perkins said she starts worrying about injuries when temperatures fall into the forties.

The softball team will host its annual “Hit for Lupus” event on Saturday, April 26, when the Falcons host UW-Platteville at Ramer Field. A 50/50 raffle will be held, with half of the money going towards the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota. Sara Otto, the vice president of the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota, will throw out the first pitch.