EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) — It's not how you start, it's how you finish. That turned out to be true for both the UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls softball team's Friday afternoon.
On the first truly nice day this spring, the Blugolds finally got to play a home game this season, although it was played at Bollinger Field and not Gelein Field. The Blugolds and Falcons ended the day with a split of a WIAC doubleheader, with UW-Eau Claire taking the first game 12-4 in five innings and UW-River Falls was able to hold on to the second game 4-3.
The Falcons (20-12, 5-7) got a home run from the first batter of the day in game one to take a 1-0 lead. But the Blugolds (20-5, 8-2) shook off the early homer and responded with a 3-run first inning.
UW-River Falls responded with three runs to regain the lead, but from there it was all UW-Eau Claire. The Blugolds scored a run in the third, two in the fourth and five in the fifth to end the game on the 8-run rule.
With the bases loaded in the fifth, Nikki Brooks (So.-New Richmond, Wis./St. Croix Central) singled to left to put the Blugolds up 10-4. The bases remained loaded when Taylor Pierce (So.-Ashwaubenon, Wis./Ashwaubenon) reached on a fielder's choice and the second basemen threw it over the first baseman's head, allowing the winning run to come in and score.
The Blugolds pounded out 15 hits in the first game, led by Jenny Hess (Sr.-Wisconsin Rapids, Wis./Lincoln) who went 4-for-4. Brooks and Emma Wishau (Jr.-Burlington, Wis./Waterford Union) added three hits each and Wishau added two RBIs. Brooks led the game with five RBIs.
Wishau was also the winning pitcher, going the distance, while giving up four runs on five hits to improve to 4-1 this year.
The second game it was UW-Eau Claire who got off to the strong start, but it was UW-River Falls that came away with the strong finish.
The Blugolds scored two runs in the first inning but the Falcons scored two runs in both the third and fourth innings and held on for the win.
In the fourth, the Blugolds cut the lead in half. With two outs, Pierce tripled to right center and Deanna Gilane (So.-South Milwaukee, Wis./South Milwaukee) came on to pinch hit. Gilane singled to bring home Pierce, but that was as close as they would get.
Down one heading into the seventh, Hess and Emily Haluska (Sr.-Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) failed to get on to start a rally. The Falcons elected to intentionally walk Sarah Fern (Sr.-Brooklyn Center, Minn./Park Center) and bring the winning run to the plate in the form of Casey Arnold (So.-Kaukauna, Wis./Kaukauna). Arnold drove a pitch to center field, but it wasn't far enough and the teams capped off the split.
The Blugolds did outhit the Falcons 10-5, with Abby Hansen (Fr.-Kaukauna, Wis./Kaukauna) leading the way with three hits. Pierce and Amanda Fischer (So.-Wausau, Wis./West) added two hits each.
Zana Lorbetske (Fr.-Rhinelander, Wis./Three Lakes) pitched seven strong innings but took the loss. She gave up four runs on five hits and struck out six.
The Blugolds will travel to UW-Whitewater Saturday for a doubleheader with the Warhawks starting at 2 p.m. Sunday, they will be back at Bollinger Field for a doubleheader with UW-Platteville. Those games are set to start at 2 p.m.