EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) — As the end of the softball season approaches, every game holds more importance as the teams gear up for the WIAC tournament. With home field advantage and higher seeds still up for grabs, UW-Eau Claire and UW-Oshkosh squared off for a doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Gelein Field in Carson Park. With the two teams matched up so closely in the conference, it was no surprise that they split the doubleheader, with the Titans taking game one, 7-5 and the Blugolds taking game two, 6-1.
Game one did not get off to the start the Blugolds (24-14, 8-5) were hoping for. The Titans (21-9, 9-3) came out swinging a hot bat against Blugold starting pitcher Lauren Blasczyk (Fr.-Appleton, Wis./East). After a leadoff walk and a sacrifice bunt, the Titans pounded out four straight hits, including a two-run homer.
The Blugolds were forced to go to the bullpen after Blasczyk was able to record just one out. Emma Wishau (Sr.-Burlington, Wis./Waterford Union) came on and allowed one more run to score but got Eau Claire out of the jam down just 4-0.
Rather than trying to get it all back at once, the Blugolds knew they had plenty of game left and began to chip away at the deficit in the second inning. Kelsey Meredith (Fr.-Golden Valley, Minn./Armstrong) came on to pinch run for Casey Arnold (Jr.-Kaukauna, Wis./Kaukauna) after she singled to lead off the inning. After moving to second on a sac bunt, Meredith stole third and scored the first run for the Blugolds on a throwing error by the catcher.
In the bottom of the third, Taylor Pierce (Jr.-Ashwaubenon, Wis./Ashwaubenon) singled to bring home another run as the Blugolds cut it to a 4-2 Titans lead. In the bottom of the fourth, the Blugolds took their first lead of the game.
With the bases loaded and just one out, the Blugolds got back-to-back RBI singles from Amanda Houle (Sr.-Chisago City, Minn./Chisago Lakes) and Kenzie Winning (Fr.-Waupun, Wis./Waupun) to tie it up at 4-4. Amanda Fischer (Jr.-Wausau, Wis./West) followed with a sacrifice fly to left field to put the Blugolds ahead 5-4.
Wishau did exactly what she needed to do coming out of the bullpen as she gave Eau Claire a chance to cut into the deficit. But in the top of the sixth, the Titans finally got to Wishau. With one out, they got a two-run homer to left center to take back the lead at 6-5. They added an insurance run in the seventh off of Zana Lorbetske (So.-Rhinelander, Wis./Three Lakes), who came on to pitch the final inning for Wishau. The Blugolds could not rally in the bottom of the seventh and the Titans held on to take game one.
Wishau took the loss despite a very good outing out of the bullpen. She went 5 2/3 innings and gave up the two runs from the homer on six hits and struck out four and walked two.
Arnold and Houle were the Blugolds that finished with multiple hits. Arnold was 3-for-4 with a double, while Houle finished 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI.
In game two, Oshkosh would strike first again, but this time it was just with one run and that was all they could get the rest of the game. In the bottom of the second, the Blugolds took a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the game.
With runners on second and third and two outs, Winning hit a no-doubt homer over the center field wall to put the Blugolds ahead 3-1. It stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth, when the Blugolds got a few insurance runs.
Morgan Lecheler (Fr.-Menomonie, Wis./Menomonie) singled to right field to bring home a run and one batter later, Pierce singled up the middle to bring home two more runs and the Blugolds led 6-1.
Lorbetske, who came on in the sixth with two outs, struck out the side in the seventh to close out the win for the Blugolds. Lorbetske picked up her first save of the season with the relief outing.
Laura Raflik (Jr.-Plover, Wis./Pacelli) earned the win with a strong performance in the circle. She gave up just the one run on six hits and walked just two in 5 2/3 innings. With the win, she improved to 9-4 this season.
Pierce was 3-for-4 with two RBIs at the plate and Nikki Brooks (Jr.-New Richmond, Wis./St. Croix Central) was 2-for-2 with a double. Winning had the big hit for the Blugolds, the three-run homer in the bottom of the second.
The Blugolds will close out the regular season Sunday when they welcome UW-Whitewater to town for a doubleheader at Gelein Field. The first game is scheduled to start at noon with the second game to follow shortly after the conclusion of the first game.