MENOMONIE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) — The horrid spring is finally starting to clear up and allow softball teams around the area to play their games. Considering the WIAC tournament is scheduled to start May 3, that's definitely a good thing.
The UW-Eau Claire softball team traveled to UW-Stout for an exciting doubleheader between the I-94 rivals. In the first game, the Blue Devils put an end to the Blugolds' conference winning streak with a 5-3 victory, which stood at 17 and tied for the school record. The second game needed 10 innings, but the Blugolds picked up the split with a 12-9 victory.
Game two got off to a crazy start and ended in much of the same fashion. The Blugolds (19-4, 7-1) jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning. With runners on first and second base, Amanda Fischer (So.-Wausau, Wis./West) homered for the 3-0 lead. Nikki Brooks (So.-New Richmond, Wis./St. Croix Central) followed with a solo shot and UW-Eau Claire wasted little time putting the loss behind them.
But in the bottom of the first, the Blue Devils (19-9, 7-5) responded with a strong statement. A grand-slam and a solo homer put UW-Stout up 5-4 and chased starting pitcher Laura Raflik (So.-Plover, Wis./Pacelli) after just 2/3 of an inning.
The Blugolds answered with a run in the top of the second and four runs in the top of the third to regain the lead. The big hit was a three RBI double by Sarah Fern (Sr.-Brooklyn Center, Minn./Park Center) with two outs in the third.
The Blue Devils were not about to go away however, as they scored two runs in the fifth and two runs in the sixth to tie the game. Neither team would score in the seventh and that sent the game to extra innings.
In the tenth, Fischer capped off an unbelievable game with the game-winning three-run homer. In game two, Fischer was 2-for-6 with two homers and six RBIs.
Zana Lorbetske (Fr.-Rhinelander, Wis./Three Lakes) pitched the final 9 1/3 innings and gave up four runs on six hits to pick up the win in relief. She struck out 16 batters, a new single-game school record.
Fern went 3-for-5 with four RBIs while Brooks and Abby Hansen (Fr.-Kaukauna, Wis./Kaukauna) finished with three hits in the game to lead the Blugolds offensively.
In the first game, it was the Blugolds who got on the board first with a run in the first inning. It stayed that way until the top of the fifth when UW-Eau Claire scored again for the 2-0 lead. UW-Stout would score a run in the bottom of the inning to cut it to 2-1.
After another Blugold run on a throwing error by the catcher in the sixth, the Blue Devils scored two runs in the final two innings to pick up the win.
With the game tied 3-3 in the seventh and no outs, the Blue Devils got a pinch-hit walk-off homer for the 5-3 victory that ended the conference winning streak.
The Blugolds got only five hits in the first game, with Fischer, Brooks, Emily Haluska (Sr.-Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH), Taylor Pierce (So.-Ashwaubenon, Wis./Ashwaubenon) and Amanda Houle (Jr.-Chisago City, Minn./Chisago Lakes) all getting one hit each.
Emma Wishau (Jr.-Burlington, Wis./Waterford Union) started and went five innings and gave up one run on four hits but earned the no-decision. Lorbetske came on in relief and gave up three runs on three hits and took the loss. Raflik pitched the final 1/3 of an inning and gave up the winning home run.
At the games today, there was a raffle and UW-Eau Claire gave away t-shirts and they raised $116 for the American Cancer Society. They also wore pink jerseys for the games to support cancer awareness.
The Blugolds were ranked No. 23 in the latest NFCA poll and will finally play their first home games of the season on Friday. They will take on UW-River Falls in a doubleheader at Bollinger Fields.