March 14, 2014

WIAC Preview: UW-Eau Claire Picked To Win Softball Crown

MADISON, Wis. (Blugolds.com) - Two-time defending champion University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is projected to claim the 2014 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) softball championship in a preseason poll conducted by the league's head coaches and sports information directors.

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The Blugolds welcome back six starting position players and four starting pitchers from last year's squad that captured the ninth WIAC regular-season championship in program archives - the most in conference history. UW-Eau Claire has made seven NCAA championship appearances in the last eight seasons, including a national title in 2008. The Blugolds own five seasons of 33-plus victories in the last nine years.

Thirteen letterwinners return for the 2014 campaign, including junior Amanda Fischer, who claimed WIAC Position Player of the Year honors a season ago. She led the conference with 38 stolen bases, while placing second with 38 runs scored and seventh with 42 hits. In 2013, the Blugolds did not play a single game at home due to poor weather conditions.

UW-Whitewater is slotted for second in the nine-team league race and has won eight WIAC regular-season titles. The Warhawks claimed the league tournament crown a year ago and made the program's 16th NCAA appearance. UW-Whitewater has had the conference's Position Player of the Year or Pitcher of the Year five of the last seven seasons. The probable starting line-up features six seniors, including Kelly McGrail, who led the team with a .385 batting average a season ago. Senior Samie Seamon compiled a .700 slugging percentage - the third-highest mark in the league. In the last 10 years, the Warhawks have amassed 32-plus victories six times. Head coach Brenda Volks tops the conference's all-time wins chart with 453 triumphs.

The Warhawks are followed in the league predictions by: UW-Oshkosh; UW-La Crosse; UW-Stout; UW-River Falls; UW-Stevens Point; UW-Superior; and UW-Platteville.

Scott Beyer inherits a UW-Oshkosh program that has won at least 20 games each of the last 10 years. He replaces Cindy Suess who accumulated 229 victories in nine seasons. Beyer previously served as an assistant coach at UW-Green Bay since 2011. The Titans return six of their top seven hitters from 2013, including senior Tess Fadness, junior Katie Koepsel and sophomore Hayden Krueger. The trio combined with sophomore Lindsey Luedke to belt 27 homers, which was more than six WIAC teams had. Krueger led the squad with a .402 batting average, while Fadness contributed a team-best .697 slugging percentage and Koepsel was second with 24 RBI.

UW-La Crosse returns seven of its top eight hitters in batting average from last year, including five players who hit over .300. The Eagles also posted seven shutout victories a season ago, the third-most in the last eight seasons. Senior Katie Fink led the team with a .509 slugging percentage, while ranking second with a .368 batting average and 20 runs scored. UW-La Crosse has won at least 20 games in six straight seasons, which matches the longest stretch in program history (1998-2003). Head coach Chris Helixon entered the 2014 campaign six wins away from reaching 200 with the program.

UW-Stout's 2014 roster includes five freshmen, eight sophomores, two juniors and three seniors. The 2013 squad produced 23 wins which was the most for the program since 2005. Their 33 home runs was the most in school history and team batting average of .307 was the highest since the 1997 season. The Blue Devils welcome back three players who hit .300 or better, including senior Sam Hastings, who led the squad with 41 runs scored and was second with seven home runs. Junior Taylor Workman had a team-high 33 RBI and was second with a .615 slugging percentage.

UW-River Falls has won at least 21 games in each of the last eight seasons and returns eight letterwinners from the 2013 unit that had a .323 batting average, 41 home runs and 61 doubles – the second-highest marks in program archives. The Falcons return three hurlers who pitched all but 38.2 innings last year, including junior Abbie Morris, who had a team-leading 2.81 earned run average in 84.2 innings and was second in the conference with a .723 slugging percentage. Head coach Faye Perkins entered the 2014 season 17 wins away from reaching 500 in her career.

UW-Stevens Point welcomes back five starting position players from a season ago, including junior Jordon Schreiner, who teamed with graduated Katie Shulfer to become the first UW-Stevens Point teammates to hit over .400 since 2008. Schreiner's .412 batting average ranked third in the WIAC. The Pointers have posted 20-plus victories in 18 of the last 20 seasons.

UW-Superior has posted a winning record in two of the last four seasons and welcomes back eight starting position players from a year ago. Senior Britnee Blake was second on the team with a .296 batting average and 21 hits. In 2013, the Yellowjackets did not play a single game at home due to poor weather conditions.

Senior Becca Lowe leads UW-Platteville's group of nine returning letterwinners. She led the 2013 squad with a .440 on-base percentage, 16 runs scored and 11 stolen bases, while ranking second with a .349 batting average, .395 slugging percentage and 30 hits. The Pioneers must replace both of their pitchers that combined to start all 28 games last year.

2014 Preseason Predictions (Voted on by WIAC head coaches and sports information directors)

2013 Record
1. UW-Eau Claire 28-9 overall, 13-3 WIAC
2. UW-Whitewater 32-7, 12-4
3. UW-Oshkosh 25-11, 11-5
4. UW-La Crosse 21-14, 8-8
5. UW-Stout 23-13, 9-7
6. UW-River Falls 21-16, 6-10
7. UW-Stevens Point 19-17, 5-11
8. UW-Superior 15-18, 6-10
9. UW-Platteville 8-20, 2-14



Team Vitals (Entering the 2014 season)

UW-Eau Claire
Head Coach: Leslie Huntington; 13th season at UWEC; 344-172
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 13/5
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost: 6/3
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost: 4/0
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost: 2/0
Returning All-WIAC: Nikki Brooks, Jr., OF/INF (2013-Honorable); Amanda Fischer, Jr., OF/C (2012-First, 2013-Position Player of the Year); Zana Lorbetske, So., RHP (2013-First); Taylor Pierce, Jr., INF (2012-First); Emma Wishau, Sr., LHP (2013-First)

UW-La Crosse
Head Coach: Chris Helixon; 13th season (9th at UWL); 246-216-1 (overall) / 194-132 (UWL)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 12/6
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost: 8/1
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost: 2/1
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost: 1/1
Returning All-WIAC: Alecia Faber, So., C (2013-Honorable); Katie Fink, Sr., OF (2012-Honorable, 2013-First); Emily Holldorf, So., OF (2013-Honorable); Megan Nelson, So., RHP/3B (2013-Honorable); Lindsey Sheehan, Jr., 2B (2013-Honorable)

UW-Oshkosh
Head Coach: Scott Beyer; 1st season at UWO
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 10/5
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost: 7/2
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost: 1/3
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost: 0/2
Returning All-WIAC: Tess Fadness, Sr., 1B (2013-First); Katie Koepsel, Jr., C (2012-First, 2013-First); Hayden Krueger, So., OF (2013-First); Jill Vondrak, Sr., RHP/1B (2013-Honorable)

UW-Platteville
Head Coach: Lee Negrelli; 3rd season at UWP; 28-39
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 9/7
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost: 5/5
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost: 0/2
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost: 0/0
Returning All-WIAC: None

UW-River Falls
Head Coach: Faye Perkins; 23rd season (21st at UWRF); 483-378-2 (overall) / 439-359-2 (at UWRF)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 8/8
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost: 3/7
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost: 3/1
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost: 3/1
Returning All-WIAC: Sarah Bohlen, Sr., RHP/INF (2013-Honorable); Abbie Morris, Jr., RHP/INF (2013-First)

UW-Stevens Point
Head Coach: Jill Millis; 3rd season at UWSP; 33-41
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 7/13
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost: 5/4
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost: 1/2
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost: 0/2
Returning All-WIAC: Sam Raddant, Jr., OF (2013-Honorable); Bekah Rennicke, Sr., 1B/OF (2012-Honorable); Jordon Schreiner, Jr., OF (2012-Honorable, 2013-First)

UW-Stout
Head Coach: Chris Stainer; 17th season (16th at UWST); 269-358 (overall) / 251-333 (at UWST)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 13/8
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost: 5/3
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost: 2/1
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost: 1/1
Returning All-WIAC: Sam Hastings, Sr., C (2013-First); Hannah Sweet, Sr., 1B (2012-Honorable); Taylor Workman, Jr., DP/1B (2013-First); Tori Workman, So., RHP/OF (2013-Honorable)

UW-Superior
Head Coach: Roger Plachta; 14th season at UWS; 260-226-1
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 15/5
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost: 8/3
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost: 1/1
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost: 1/1
Returning All-WIAC: Britnee Blake, Sr., INF (2013-Honorable)

UW-Whitewater
Head Coach: Brenda Volk; 16th season at UWW; 453-192-4
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 15/9
Starting Position Players Returning/Lost: 7/2
Pitchers with Starting Experience Returning/Lost: 1/1
Pitchers with Saves Returning/Lost: 1/0
Returning All-WIAC: Laura Eichenold, Sr., SS (2012-First); Paige Evangelista, Jr., OF/C (2012-First); Bekka Houda, Jr., RHP (2013-First); Kelly McGrail, Sr., 2B (2013-First); Mimi Ramirez, Sr., OF (2011-Honorable, 2013-First); Samie Seamon, Sr., OF (2012-Honorable)

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