WIAC Softball Preview: Blugolds Earn Six First-Place Votes; Picked to Finish Second

MADISON, Wis.--University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is expected to win the 2013 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) softball championship, according to the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.

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The Warhawks collected 11 first-place votes in the conference poll and have won eight WIAC regular-season titles, with the most recent in 2009.  UW-Whitewater has posted 30 or more wins in four of the last five seasons and returns all nine starting position players from a year ago.

Senior Emily Epifanio secured WIAC Position Player of the Year accolades last season after placing third in the conference with 32 RBI, fourth with eight home runs, fifth with a .651 slugging percentage and 50 hits, and sixth with a .388 batting average.  She ranks fourth in UW-Whitewater’s career chart with 23 home runs and seventh with 102 RBI.  Senior Amanda Mertes had a league-leading 30 stolen bases a season ago and is six away from breaking the school career record.  Head Coach Brenda Volk owns 421 victories in her career – the most in WIAC history.

UW-Eau Claire picked up six first-place votes in the league poll and is slotted for second in the nine-team derby.  The Blugolds earned the eighth conference championship in program history last season and return three of their top four hitters from that unit.  Sophomore Amanda Fischer led the team with nine home runs and placed second in the WIAC with a .718 slugging percentage and third with 32 RBI, while classmate Taylor Pierce topped the team with 54 hits - a mark that ranked fourth in the league.  UW-Eau Claire will host the finals of this year’s NCAA Division III Championship from May 17-21.

UW-Superior claimed the remaining first-place vote.  The Yellowjackets won the WIAC crown in 2002 and have 14 freshman and transfers on this year’s roster - the largest group of newcomers for Head Coach Roger Plachta.  UW-Superior welcomes back senior Ashley Martin, who returns after missing all of 2012 with an injury.  In 2011, she led the team with a .444 batting average, .661 slugging percentage, .462 on-base percentage, 55 hits, 10 doubles and seven triples.

UW-River Falls is coming off a 2012 campaign in which they established a program single-season record with 34 victories, won their second straight WIAC Tournament title and came within one win of claiming a NCAA Division III regional crown.  The Falcons belted 43 home runs a season ago to rank seventh in the NCAA Division III.  UW-River Falls owns a 22-1 record at home the last two seasons and have 12 home contests scheduled this year.  Senior Ashley Goettl has a .729 career slugging percentage, which ranks fifth on the WIAC all-time list and is 11 home runs shy of becoming the conference’s all-time leader.  Gone from the squad due to graduation is Rose Tusa, the two-time WIAC Pitcher of the Year.

UW-Platteville’s 20 wins a season ago were the most for the program since 2003.  The Pioneers posted a 2.82 team ERA - the best since 2004 - and return both starting pitchers in senior Melissa Anderson and junior Jeni Freiburger.  Anderson finished fifth in the WIAC with 143.1 innings pitched a season ago.  Senior Ashlen Folkers scored a team-leading 22 runs and finished second with 22 RBI, while classmate Colleen Lowe had a .255 batting average, five doubles and 14 RBI.

UW-Oshkosh returns five players who started at least 31 games last year, including junior Tess Fadness, who has started all 80 games of her career.  Sophomore Katie Koepsel led the squad with a .370 batting average and nine home runs, while topping the conference with a .739 slugging percentage.  Senior Courtney Wautier has appeared in 86 games over the past three years, compiling a 33-26 record and 4.00 ERA with 289 strikeouts over 387 innings.  During the 2012 campaign, UW-Oshkosh belted 32 home runs, while its pitchers gave up 11.  The Titans have won at least 20 games in each of the past nine seasons.

UW-Stout returns eight players who made 30 or more starts last season.  The Blue Devils welcome back 81 percent of their hits, 76 percent of their runs scored, 82 percent of their RBI and 75 percent of their home runs.  The roster includes three seniors, five juniors, three sophomores and nine freshmen.   Senior Alison Gray led the team with a .353 batting average, 47 hits, 32 RBI and 12 doubles a season ago.

UW-La Crosse’s 2013 roster features one senior, five juniors, four sophomores and seven freshmen.  Junior Katie Fink led the team with a .397 batting average, 31 runs scored, 50 hits and 10 doubles in 2012.  Senior Lauren Beres topped the squad with 13 wins, a 1.80 ERA, 30 appearances, 124.2 innings pitched and 103 strikeouts.  The Eagles have won at least 20 games in four straight seasons, compiling an overall record of 120-52.

UW-Stevens Point welcomes back eight starting position players from the 2012 campaign.  Junior Bekah Rennicke led the lineup with a .381 batting average and .441 on-base percentage, while senior Katie Krueger topped the squad with 44 hits, while placing second with a .349 batting average, 20 RBI and nine doubles.  Sophomore Jordon Schreiner matched Krueger for the team lead in doubles and accumulated a .337 batting average.

2013 Preseason Predictions (Voted on by WIAC head coaches and sports information directors)

2012 Record
1.  UW-Whitewater (11) 32-11 overall, 12-4 WIAC
2.  UW-Eau Claire (6) 33-14, 14-2
3.  UW-River Falls 34-15, 10-6
4.  UW-Platteville 20-19, 8-8
5.  UW-Oshkosh 22-20, 7-9
6.  UW-Stout 20-22, 8-8
7.  UW-La Crosse 20-15, 5-11
8.  UW-Superior (1) 12-20, 5-11
9.  UW-Stevens Point 14-24, 3-13
( )--First-place votes



Team Vitals (Entering the 2013 season)
UW-Eau Claire
Head Coach:  Leslie Huntington; 12th season at UWEC; 316-163
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  13/6
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  6/3
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  3/1
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  2/0
Returning All-WIAC:  Amanda Fischer, So., OF/C (2012-First); Emily Haluska, Sr., 3B (2011-First); Jenny Hess, Sr., 2B (2012-Honorable); Taylor Pierce, So., SS/OF (2012-First)

UW-La Crosse
Head Coach:  Chris Helixon; 12th season (8th at UWL); 225-202-1 (overall) / 173-118 (UWL)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  10/10
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  5/4
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  1/1
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  1/0
Returning All-WIAC:  Lauren Beres, Sr., RHP (2012-First); Katie Fink, Jr., OF (2012-Honorable)

UW-Oshkosh
Head Coach:  Cindy Suess; 9th season at UWO; 204-129-1
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  8/10
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  5/4
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  1/3
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  1/1
Returning All-WIAC:  Katie Koepsel, So., C (2012-First); Hillary Trebiatowski, Sr., OF (2012-Honorable); Courtney Wautier, Sr., RHP (2011-Honorable, 2012-Honorable)

UW-Platteville
Head Coach:  Lee Negrelli; 2nd season at UWP; 20-19
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  10/11
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  6/4
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost: 2/0
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  0/0
Returning All-WIAC:  Ashlen Folkers, Sr., INF (2012-Honorable); Colleen Lowe, Sr., 3B (2011-Honorable, 2012-Honorable)

UW-River Falls
Head Coach:  Faye Perkins; 22nd season (20th at UWRF); 461-362-2 (overall) / 418-343-2 (at UWRF)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  9/9
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  6/4
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  2/2
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  1/1
Returning All-WIAC:  Hayley Buchanan, Sr., INF (2010-Honorable, 2011-Honorable, 2012-First); Ashley Goettl, Sr., INF (2010-Honorable, 2011-First, 2012-First)

UW-Stevens Point
Head Coach:  Jill Millis; 2nd season at UWSP; 14-24
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  13/5
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  8/1
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  2/1
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  2/1
Returning All-WIAC:  Katie Krueger, Sr., 1B (2012-Honorable); Bekah Rennicke, Jr., OF/UT (2012-Honorable); Jordon Schreiner, So., OF (2012-Honorable)

UW-Stout
Head Coach:  Chris Stainer; 16th season (15th at UWST); 246-345 (overall) / 228-320 (at UWST)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  11/8
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost: 7/2
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  1/1
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  2/1
Returning All-WIAC:  Alison Gray, Sr., OF/C (2010-Honorable, 2012-First); Sam Hastings, Jr., C (2012-Honorable); Hannah Sweet, Jr., INF (2012-Honorable); Laura Vanderhoof, Jr., RHP (2012-Honorable)

UW-Superior
Head Coach:  Roger Plachta; 13th season at UWS; 245-208-1
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  4/4
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  5/4
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  2/0
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  1/0
Returning All-WIAC:  Lindsay Garay, Sr., INF (2011-Honorable); Amanda Le Bard, Sr., RHP (2011-Honorable); Ashley Martin, Sr., C (2009-Honorable, 2010-First, 2011-First)

UW-Whitewater
Head Coach:  Brenda Volk; 15th season at UWW; 421-185-4
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  16/6
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost:  9/0
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost:  2/1
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost:  1/0
Returning All-WIAC:  Katie Boyle, Sr., RHP (2012-First); Laura Eichenold, Jr., SS (2012-First); Emily Epifanio, Sr., C (2010-Honorable, 2011-First, 2012-Position Player of the Year); Paige Evangelista, So., OF/3B (2012-First); Amanda Mertes, Sr., OF (2011-First, 2012-First); Mimi Ramirez, Jr., OF (2011-Honorable); Samie Seamon, Jr., OF (2012-Honorable)