Softball Can't Avoid Sweep by Rival Stout

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) — It's been a long time since the UW-Eau Claire softball team has played a game at Gelein Field, their actual home field. Last season weather forced all of the home games to be played at Bollinger Field, and this spring, the weather has been rather unkind again, forcing the Blugolds back to Bollinger Field for their doubleheader matchup with UW-Stout. The Blugolds fell in a shootout in game one, 8-6, and in game two, it was the Blue Devils that were victorious again, this time in extra innings, with an 8-4 win.

After falling behind for the second straight game in game two, the Blugolds (15-11, 2-4) took the lead in the third, and it looked like they were going to hold onto it for the win. They needed just one more out, but as they say, it's often the toughest one to get, and the Blue Devils (16-10, 5-1) proved that.

The Blue Devils got a solo homer in both the top of the first and the top of the second to take a 2-0 lead. But the Blugolds responded with an RBI double by Zana Lorbetske (So.-Rhinelander, Wis./Three Lakes) in the bottom of the second to make it 2-1. In the third, they added two more runs to take the lead.

Deanna Gilane (Jr.-South Milwaukee, Wis./South Milwaukee) doubled to right center to bring home Taylor Pierce (Jr.-Ashwaubenon, Wis./Ashwaubenon) and Casey Arnold (Jr.-Kauakauna, Wis./Kaukauna) singled home another run for the 3-2 lead.

Laura Raflik (Jr.-Plover, Wis./Pacelli) made sure that lead held up as she got stronger in the circle as the game went on. She took the lead all the way to the top of the seventh where she retired the first two batters. The Blue Devils then got what seemed to be a harmless single, but after a wild pitch moved the runner to second, they got another single to bring home the run and tie the game.

The Blugolds had a quality chance to win the game in the bottom of the eighth after Amanda Fischer (Jr.-Wausau, Wis./West) led off with a single. Rachel Heffel (Fr.-Racine, Wis./Case) followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt that turned into a base hit to put runners at first and second with no outs. But the Blue Devils found some fortune on their side when Pierce hit a hard liner that was caught by the pitcher and she doubled off Heffel at first. Gilane was forced to pop out and that ended the threat for the Blugolds.

The Blue Devils made them pay in the top of the ninth after a two run homer chased Raflik from the game. They added three more runs and held on for the 8-4 win.

Raflik took the loss, despite a very strong performance in the circle. She went 8 1/3 innings and gave up five runs on 10 hits. She also struck out five and walked just one as she fell to 5-4 this season.

Offensively the Blugolds were led by Heffel who had the only multi-hit game and Gilane, Lorbetske and Morgan Lecheler (Fr.-Menomonie, Wis./Menomonie), who all finished with doubles.

The first game was much more of a shootout as both teams scored early and often. The Blue Devils struck first with a run in the first, two in the second and three in the third, pounding out 11 hits in just three innings off of Blugolds' ace, Emma Wishau (Sr.-Burlington, Wis./Waterford Union).

But the Blugolds put up three runs in the second and two in the third to make it just a one-run game. In the third, Gilane hit a no-doubter home run to left field and Kenzie Winning (Fr.-Waupun, Wis./Waupun) later doubled in the second run of the inning.

Down 6-5, the Blugolds tied the game in the bottom of the fifth on a solo homer to center field by Winning. The ball initially appeared to bounce over the fence for a groundrule double, but was quickly changed to a homer by the umpires.

Unfortunately for the Blugolds, the Blue Devils struck for two runs in the top of the sixth and they would prove to be the difference in the game.

After getting hit early, Wishau settled down nicely to go 5 1/3 innings, but she was hurt by four Blugold errors. She gave up eight runs, only four of which were earned, on 12 hits and walked two while striking out five.

Winning had a huge game at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double, a homer, two runs and two RBIs. Heffel added two hits and Gilane had the solo homer to lead the Blugolds offensively.

The Blugolds will get back to action in nonconference play this weekend when they travel to Bloomington (Ill.) for the Illinois Wesleyan Tournament. Their first game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday against Washington (Mo.). They return home next Friday, April 18 to host UW-Stevens Point. Hopefully the weather will cooperate so the Blugolds can get a home game on their actual home field.

-JM-