Softball Survives Wild Second Game with Falcons to Pick up Sweep

RIVER FALLS, Wis. (Blugolds.com) — Coming off a doubleheader sweep of UW-Stevens Point, the UW-Eau Claire softball team is hitting the home stretch of their schedule. Today they traveled to River Falls for a WIAC doubleheader with the Falcons. The Blugolds came out strong and picked up another sweep with a 6-1 win in game one, and a wild, back-and-forth  11-6 win in game two.

The first game of the day saw the Blugolds (21-13, 6-4) put up four runs in the first inning and that was more than enough to propel them to a win over the Falcons (15-18, 2-8).

Amanda Fischer (Jr.-Wausua, Wis./West) led off the game with a walk and proceeded to steal second base. Three batters later, Casey Arnold (Jr.-Kaukauna, Wis./Kaukauna) singled to center field to bring home Fischer for the first run. A few batters later, with two outs, Sam Noetzelman (Fr.-Delano, Minn./Delano) doubled to right field to bring in two more runs. Leah Wolff (Fr.-Middleton, Wis./Middleton) followed with an RBI single to left field and the Blugolds led 4-0.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Falcons cut it to 4-1 on a solo homer to center field. But in the top of the sixth, Eau Claire added two insurance runs.

With one out, Nikki Brooks (Jr.-New Richmond, Wis./St. Croix Central) doubled to right field. Wolff picked up another big hit with two outs, this time an RBI single to center field that brought in one run. Kenzie Winning (Fr.-Waupun, Wis./Waupun) brought in the final run of the game, a single to center field, which gave the Blugolds a 6-1 lead.

The Blugolds used three pitchers in the game and they combined for one run on just five hits. Emma Wishau (Sr.-Burlington, Wis./Waterford Union) came on in the fourth inning for starter Lauren Blasczyk (Fr.-Appleton, Wis./East) and picked up win. She went three innings and did not allow a hit and struck out four. Zana Lorbetske (So.-Rhinelander, Wis./Three Lakes) pitched the final inning and closed out the win.

Offensively, the Blugolds finished with 10 hits, including two from Arnold, Wolff and Brooks. Brooks and Noetzelman each had a double, while Fischer and Winning finished with a stolen base each.

In the second game, the Blugolds started fast once again, this time putting up a three-spot on the Falcons. The rally was once again sparked by a leadoff walk by Fischer. Taylor Pierce (Jr.-Ashwaubenon, Wis./Ashwaubenon) followed with a single to center field  and Fischer advanced to third to put runners on the corners. Pierce proceeded to steal second and the Falcons intentionally walked Deanna Gilane (Jr.-South Milwaukee, Wis./South Milwaukee) to load the bases.

After back-to-back strikeouts by the Blugolds, Noetzelman reached on an error by the first baseman that brought home two runs. Wolff followed with an infield single to bring in the third run of the inning to give Eau Claire a 3-0 lead.

The Falcons cut into the lead with a run in the bottom of the second and they added two in the bottom of the fourth to tie it up at 3-3. But the Blugolds responded and took the lead back with another three-run inning in the top of the fifth.

Gilane singled to left field to lead off the inning and Arnold laid down a sacrifice bunt to the and reached on an error by the pitcher and that also allowed Gilane to advance to third to put runners on the corners. Brooks took advantage of the error with a single to left field to bring in one run. With runners on first and second, Noetzelman laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third with just one out.

Wolff continued her strong day at the plate with an RBI single to right field. Winning then hit a sacrifice fly to right field to put the Blugolds back in the lead at 3-0.

But the Falcons had a response in the bottom of the fifth as they put up two runs to cut it to a 6-5 Blugold lead.

After it became clear that a one-run lead would not hold up, the Blugolds exploded for five runs in the sixth inning and officially put the game away. Fischer and Pierce led off the inning with back-to-back singles and Gilane laid down a sac bunt to put runners on second and third with one out. The Falcons elected to intentionally walk Arnold to load the bases and Brooks made them pay.

Brooks singled to center field to bring in two runs to put the Blugolds up 8-5. After a groundout to the shortstop, Wolff came up to the plate with two outs and delivered once again. Wolff singled to left field to bring in two more runs for the Blugolds as they went ahead 10-5. Winning singled to right field to bring in another run and the Blugolds led 11-5 heading into the bottom of the sixth.

The Falcons weren't ready to go away just yet, as they once again rallied in the bottom of the inning. After three singles brought in a run, Eau Claire once again turned to the bullpen, as Lorbetske came on for her second outing of the day and she closed the door. Lorbetske got out of the jam in the sixth and did not give up a run in the seventh as the Blugolds escaped with the sweep.

Laura Raflik (Jr.-Plover, Wis./Pacelli) started in the circle for the Blugolds. She went 3 1/3 innings and gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits and struck out five while walking two. Wishau picked up her second win of the day, despite giving up three runs on five hits. She also walked two and struck out three. Lorbetske gave up just one hit in 1 2/3 innings and struck out four with three walks.

Wolff led the Blugolds offensively, going 3-for-4 with a run and four RBIs. Pierce also had three hits in the game and Fischer and Brooks finished with two each as they pounded out 12 hits, all singles.

The Blugolds improve to 6-4 in the WIAC with six games remaining. They will host UW-Superior for a doublheader, which was originally scheduled to be in Superior, on Wednesday at 3 p.m. with the second game to follow. Saturday they will host UW-Oshkosh for a doubleheader and they will wrap up the regular season on Sunday with another doubleheader against UW-Whitewater.

-JM-