UWRF softball honors new field with a win against UW-Eau Claire
April 20, 2016
The Falcons opened up their new softball field with an impressive performance Wednesday, April 13, dropping the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds 7-1 in the first game of their doubleheader and tied 3-3 with a finish to be announced later in their second match-up.
This first conference win of the year came on the heels of a rough weekend for the Falcons. They were outscored 28-2 in doubleheaders against UW-Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater and seemed to have a lack of energy to start out the conference season. But all of this misfortune went out the window when UWRF returned to defend their home field for the first time.
Michelle LaCasse took the mound in her fifteenth game of the year and gave an incredible performance. The junior pitcher threw all seven innings on the afternoon and allowed only one earned run on three hits. Her ability to work around their strongest hitters and keep the Blugolds off balance kept Eau Claire frustrated throughout the first match-up.
“There was a lot of excitement, but a couple of nerves, going into the game. We’re still getting used to how the balls react off the dirt on the new field and the view from the mound is much different from previous seasons,” said LaCasse.
This didn’t seem to impact the Falcons’ hitting, with sophomore Shannan Borchardt blasting a solo home run to center field to open up the new stadium with a bang. After an RBI by LaCasse in the first inning, Borchardt’s homer swung all the momentum in favor of UWRF to put them up 2-0.
“We came ready to get the first win on our new field and protect our house at all costs. The energy was high and the crowd really made a difference,” said Head Coach Amber Dohlman.
This energy propelled the Falcons to a five run fourth inning that put the contest out of reach for the Blugolds. Aiyana Ledwein and Mady Bunnell both drove in two runs apiece to give the packed stands something to get excited about. The hitting that seemed to disappear the previous weekend came to life against UW-Eau Claire.
“We hit to open spots on Wednesday while we weren’t able to get runs on the previous weekend. We did a good job of getting people around,” Dohlman said.
The Blugolds got on the board in the sixth, but the Falcons managed to prevail 7-1 to pick up their first conference game of the year. This win snapped a six-game losing streak and may prove to be the turning point in the Falcons’ season.
“The win was a mixture of a lot of things, with utilizing the defense and having everyone on the same page. We hit a fun, flow state and the team plays a lot better when we’re enjoying it and staying loose,” said LaCasse.
The Falcons played the second part of their doubleheader immediately following their big win and faced tougher competition from the Blugolds. The game went back and forth throughout, with the Falcons evening the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the third. Only one more run would be scored by each team before the game was called for darkness, tied at 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth.
Dohlman said, “We were all a little disappointed in the result in the second game because getting a sweep over Eau Claire would be huge. Our team knows they earned and deserved that win, and they will come out and finish it.”
The second game will be finished at a later date. However, the effort seems to have completely swung the Falcons’ season around. The team swept Finlandia this past weekend and split a series with UW-Stevens Point. The Finlandia game was especially significant, with pitchers LaCasse and Maddie Studnicka combining to throw a no-hitter.
With the wins the Falcons improve to 11-17-1 in the season and 2-5-1 in the WIAC. With the top teams in the conference already off the schedule, the Falcons could make a serious push to be contenders in the WIAC playoffs.
“This team could of rolled over and given up, but they came back and were ready to start fresh and new. We now have the three toughest teams out of the way, so now we need to go out to battle and win out,” Dohlman said.