ONALASKA, Wis. (Blugolds.com) — After a record snowfall in May set the WIAC softball tournament back to just one day from the scheduled three days, and moved it from Eau Claire to Onalaska at the Omni Center, the teams finally hit the field on Sunday for what became a single elimination tournament.
UW-Eau Claire and UW-Whitewater, the top two seeds in the tournament, met in the championship. Early on it appeared it would be a close game that would come down to the end, but the Warhawks blew it open and defeated the Blugolds 7-0 to claim the WIAC championship and the automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament.
Through three innings, the two teams combined for just one hit, a single by UW-Whitewater. But in the fourth, the Warhawks got on the board with three runs on five hits, despite very few of them actually being hit hard.
That ended the game for starting pitcher Emma Wishau (Jr.-Burlington, Wis./Waterford Union), who started the game after pitching a complete game earlier in their victory over UW-Stout.
The Blugolds brought on Zana Lorbetske (Fr.-Rhinelander, Wis./Three Lakes) and she got out of the jam for the time being.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Blugolds had a chance to cut into the UW-Whitewater lead. Abby Hansen (Fr.-Kaukauna, Wis./Kaukauna) reached on an infield single to start the inning and Sarah Fern (Sr.-Brooklyn Center, MInn./Park Center) singled to left field to put runners on first and second with no outs.
Amanda Fischer (So.-Wausau, Wis./West) grounded into a fielder's choice as the Warhawks cut down the lead runner at third for the first out. Taylor Pierce (So.-Ashwaubenon, Wis./Ashwaubenon) and Nikki Brooks (So.-New Richmond, Wis./St. Croix Central) both grounded out to the pitcher to end the threat.
In the fifth, the Warhawks added two more runs and forced another pitching change for the Blugolds, who brought on Laura Raflik (So.-Plover, Wis./Pacelli). Raflik gave up two more runs in the sixth and that proved to be too much for the Blugolds to overcome.
UW-Eau Claire finished with just four hits, one each by Fern, Hansen, Fischer and Emily Haluska (Sr.-Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH). Wishau took the loss and gave up three runs on five hits in 3 2/3 innings while striking out two batters.
In the first game, the Blugolds took on UW-Stout, after the Blue Devils came back to defeat UW-La Crosse in the bottom of the seventh in the quarterfinals. UW-Eau Claire scored early and that was good enough for the 4-0 victory.
Fischer gave the Blugolds a huge boost in the bottom of the first with a three-run homer to left field. Pierce singled to third to score Fischer in the third to cap off the scoring.
Four runs was plenty for Wishau who went the distance to pick up the complete game shutout. She allowed just five hits and struck out three batters in the victory.
The Blugolds only finished with four hits, but they made them count, particularly Fischer's three-run homer. Fern, Pierce and Jenny Hess (Sr.-Wisconsin Rapids, Wis./Lincoln) provided the other hits for the Blugolds.
The Warhawks defeated UW-Oshkosh 2-1 in the semifinals to advance to the championship. UW-Whitewater eliminated the drama now as the NCAA will announce the tournament field Monday at 9 a.m. on NCAA.com.
The Blugolds will have to wait and see if they receive a bid to the tournament and have a chance to advance to the Division III National Championship that will be hosted by UW-Eau Claire at Gelein Field at Carson Park. Regional play will begin on Thursday next week and the National Championship will begin Friday, May 17 and conclude May 21.