INDIANOLA, Iowa (Blugolds.com) — The UW-Eau Claire softball team returned to action for the first time Saturday since their spring break trip in Tucson, Ariz. With snow still on the ground in Wisconsin, the Blugolds traveled to Iowa to take on Simpson College for a doubleheader. Simpson won the first game of the day 5-1, but the Blugolds earned the split with a 6-3 win in the second game.
In game one, Simpson (13-9) was in control throughout the entire game. They got to Blugolds' (11-5) starter Emma Wishau (Sr.-Burlington, Wis./Waterford Union) for two runs in the first inning and added another in the second to take a 3-0 lead.
The game stayed 3-0 until Simpson struck again with two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Facing their final three outs, the Blugolds struck for one run in the top of the seventh inning. With Kenzie Winning (Fr.-Waupun, Wis./Waupun) on first base, Amanda Houle (Sr.-Chisago City, Minn./Chisago Lakes) doubled to right field to score Winning. But with two outs, Amanda Fischer (Jr.-Wausau, Wis./West) grounded out to end the game.
The Blugolds finished the game with seven hits, with seven hitters finishing with one each. Casey Arnold (Jr.-Kaukauna, Wis./Kaukauna) and Taylor Pierce (Jr.-Ashwaubenon, Wis./Ashwaubenon) along with Houle each finished with a double.
Wishau took the loss, going six innings and she gave up five runs, all of which were earned, on eight hits. She struck out six hitters and walked two.
In game two, the Blugolds got off to a strong start in the top of the second. Deanna Gilane (Jr.-South Milwaukee, Wis./South Milwaukee) led off the inning with a single to left center field. Rachel Heffel (Fr.-Racine, Wis./Case) followed with a walk. Winning put down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third. Leah Wolff (Fr.-Middleton, Wis./Middleton) followed with a walk to load the bases with one out.
Houle grounded into a fielder's choice as Simpson cut down the run at home but the bases remained loaded with two outs. That's when the Blugolds struck. Fischer singled to right field to score Wolff and Heffel for the 2-0 lead. Nikki Brooks (Jr.-New Richmond, Wis./St. Croix Central) followed with a single to bring home Fischer and Houle and the Blugolds led 4-0.
But Simpson wasted little time cutting into the lead as they cut it in half with two runs in the bottom of the second. They added a run in the bottom of the third to make it just 4-3. But the Blugolds added a run in the fifth on an RBI single by Winning to score Gilane. In the seventh, they added an even more crucial insurance run as Arnold led off the inning with a solo home run to left field.
That was enough for Laura Raflik (Jr.-Plover, Wis./Pacelli), who improved to 4-1 with the complete game win in the circle. She gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits and struck out three while walking two in the win.
UW-Eau Claire finished with 11 hits, including two by both Arnold and Heffel, while Gilane finished the game 3-for-4. Arnold's homer was the lone extra base hit in the game for the Blugolds.
The Blugolds will stay in Iowa with two more games on Sunday and two on Monday. Sunday, they will take on St. Scholastica (Minn.) at 10 a.m. at Oskaloosa, Iowa. At 2 p.m., they will take on Dubuque (Iowa). Monday they will play Central (Iowa) at 1 p.m. and the second game to follow at 3 p.m.