Falcons softball ends season of rebuilding with doubleheader win
May 5, 2016
Falcons Softball ended their WIAC season on a high note, dropping the Pioneers from UW-Platteville 11-0 and 10-5 in a doubleheader Saturday, April 30.
The game had high stakes for the Falcons, who needed both victories and help from other teams in the conference to clinch a spot in the WIAC playoffs. UWRF did their part, but couldn’t get the split they needed in the UW-Stevens Point vs. UW-Stout game to earn the number five seed in the WIAC tournament.
The Falcons still came out with hot bats on Saturday and instantly put pressure on the struggling Pioneers. Aiyana Ledwein floated a ball to right center that ended up being a solo shot and her first home run on the season. Ledwein didn’t seem to expect it to carry over the fence, but it was clearly a sign of good things to come for the Falcons.
Katie Thompson blew the game wide open only a few batters later when she crushed a pitch for a two-run homer to left field to drive in Abby Veloske to make the game 3-0 in the bottom of the first.
Head Coach Amber Dohlman said, “They came out with bats ready to go. They also did a better job of pitch selection and being relaxed and calm to go out and play.”
Pitcher Michelle LaCasse dominated in game one, striking out five of the first six Pioneer batters and six of the first nine. She only allowed two hits on the afternoon and finished her eleventh complete game of the season.
“She came out throwing hard and knew what she was going up against. She was just looking to throw it past them,” Dohlman said.
The lead only grew for the Falcons as they tacked on four runs in the third inning and added four more in the fourth. Even facing two Pioneer pitchers, the Falcons continued to string together hits and take advantage of opportunities on errors and passed balls.
UWRF also capitalized on hitting to open spots and not leaving runners on base. Both aspects of the game have been the downfall of the team at times throughout the year, but were a strength on Saturday. The Falcons consistently ripped hits to center and only left one runner on base during all of game one.
LaCasse said, “When you get ahead big you have to stay tough mentally and not let them get in your head. Instead you have to tune out the crowd and focus in on your job.”
Game two showed a lot more fight from the Pioneers as they challenged the Falcons through the first 6 and a half innings. Even with Katie Thompson hitting her team-leading sixth home run of the year and Ali Murray adding her first, the score was still tied at five going into the bottom of the sixth.
From there the Falcons proved who the dominant team was by driving in five runs to put the game out of reach. Shannon Borchardt added a two-run shot for the team’s fifth home run of the doubleheader to push the lead to 7-5. Aiyana Ledwein’s two-run RBI double closed out the scoring for the Falcons and gave them a comfortable five-run lead. LaCasse returned to the mound and closed out the game by not allowing a hit in the seventh to secure the victory.
With the win the Falcons finish their WIAC season with a record of 5-8-1. A doubleheader loss to Hamline on Tuesday leaves the Falcons with a final record of 14-22-1 overall. It was an up and down season for the team, with a big transition with new coaches and players in new positions.
Dohlman said, “It was a year of everyone trying to learn the system after losing some big players and members of the pitching staff last year. But next year we can focus on things differently and teach more advanced techniques.”
LaCasse also believes having a year of playing for Dohlman will have benefits, saying, “We got used to each other a lot more and it will help us know what we’re doing right. Next year we can teach others and make Dohlman’s work a little easier than all of us learning at once.”
The team heads into next season losing three key seniors: Abby Veloske, Sarah Sorensen, and Hannah Zurn. Their contributions will be difficult to fill, but will need to be replaced for the team to make further strides in making the WIAC playoffs next season.
LaCasse said, “Losing the seniors is going to be a big loss, especially with how close everybody is to them. Hopefully we can step into where they are looking forward to getting in the new freshman and helping them adjust to make an impact next year.”
The Falcons may have had a rebuilding year, but they still managed to score some big wins and took big steps in controlling their new home-field advantage, where they posted a winning record of 5-4-1. Shoes need to be filled, but now the Falcons look to come back with more experience and confidence for next season.