EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) — The UW-Eau Claire softball team needed to sweep a doubleheader with UW-Platteville to keep their hopes alive for a WIAC regular season title and the chance to host the WIAC tournament next weekend.
Playing at home for just the second time this season, again at Bollinger Field, the Blugolds needed extra innings to take game one, 2-1, but in game two, it was all UW-Eau Claire, as they defeated the Pioneers 12-1 in five innings.
In game one, the Pioneers (8-20, 2-14) got on the board first with a run off of starting pitcher Zana Lorbetske (Fr.-Rhinelander, Wis./Three Lakes). And it stayed that way for a while, as the Blugolds (23-6, 11-3) struggled to get the offense going.
Finally, in the bottom of the fifth, UW-Eau Claire was able to break through and tie the game. Amanda Fischer (So.-Wausau Wis./West) reached on an error to start the inning. Emily Haluska (Sr.-Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) bunted her over to second and she moved to third a batter later. Amanda Houle (Jr.-Chisago City, Minn./Chisago Lakes) reached on infield single to bring home Fischer.
In the top of the ninth, the Pioneers stranded the bases loaded with just one out, setting the stage for Jenny Hess (Sr.-Wisconsin Rapids, Wis./Lincoln) and the Blugolds.
Fischer once again started the rally with a single and Haluska once again laid down a sacrifice bunt, but was able to reach on a throwing error. Nikki Brooks (So.-New Richmond, Wis./St. Croix Central) reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases.
After a strikeout, Hess lined a single to center field to bring home Fischer to cap the 2-1 walk-off victory for the Blugolds.
Emma Wishau (Jr.-Burlington, Wis./Waterford Union) picked up the win, pitching two innings in relief. She did not give up a run on two hits and improved to 6-2 this season. Lorbetske went just two innings before giving way to Emily Ruegemer (Jr.-St. Cloud, Minn./Cathedral), who pitched five innings and did not allow a run on five hits.
Fischer and Brooks led the team offensively with two hits each. Hess, Houle and Sarah Fern (Sr.-Brooklyn Center, Minn./Park Center) provided the other hits.
In game two, it was all UW-Eau Claire from the start. They scored three runs in the first, six in the second and three in the third, leaving little doubt in the outcome of this one.
Fischer tripled in two runs in the first and Haluska singled to bring in Fischer for the 3-0 lead. In the second, the Blugolds were aided by three Pioneer errors, leading to the six-run barrage.
The Pioneers did get on the board with an RBI double in the third, but that was all they could muster against Blugold starter Laura Raflik (So.-Plover, Wis./Pacelli) who was otherwise effective throughout the game.
Raflik went the distance and improved to 7-1 while giving up just the one run on five hits.
Fischer and Hess led the offensive charge with two hits each, including a triple for Fischer and a double for Hess. Six other Blugolds finished with one hit each.
UW-Oshkosh split with UW-Stout, leaving UW-Eau Claire atop the conference standings at the end of the day. The Titans still have a doubleheader with UW-Stevens Point, but the big matchup will come Tuesday when they host the Blugolds for a doubleheader.
The doubleheader on Tuesday will be the final two games of the regular season for the Blugolds before they begin play in the conference tournament next Friday.