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Blugolds Get Solid Win Over Central
Posted: Friday, May 12, 2006
ROCK ISLAND, Ill. - The UW-Eau Claire softball team made a big statement in the NCAA Division III Rock Island Regional with a 7-1 triumph over Central College of Iowa Friday.
The win kept the No. 1 seeded Blugolds as one of two unbeaten teams left in the eight-team double elimination tournament. The victory came against a program that has been represented in the NCAA tournament in 19 of the last 20 seasons and has won four national championships. It also came just over 24 hours after an unimpressive 2-1 extra-inning decision against eighth-seeded Lake Forest College.
Fifth-year Blugold coach Leslie Huntington said that the tone for the game was set in the first inning.
As the designated visiting team in the game, the Blugolds, who are ranked No. 5 nationally in this week's poll and now stand 36-4 for the season, scored a run in the top of the first on back to back doubles by Rachel Paulus (Jr.-Wisconsin Rapids/Lincoln) and Mallory McKinney (Jr.-Brooklyn Center, MN/Champlin Park).
Then in Central's half of the inning, after Tina Shimak rapped a two-out single, Blugold catcher Robyn Fennig (Fr.-Muskego) threw out pinch-runner Trista Leaming on a steal attempt.
"They are a basestealing, running team," said Huntington and those two first-inning plays "set the tone for the game."
The other positives factors, according to Huntington, were that "Mallory was in control and we kept putting the pressure on them." The Blugolds had runners on base in every inning except the second. Huntington also credited Fennig with "stepping up with her awareness behind the plate."
With a 1-0 score and McKinney throwing a 1-hitter, the Blugolds added some insurance in each of the final three frames. In the fifth, pinchhitter Betsy Kettinger (Fr.-Bloomingon, MN/Jefferson) led off with a single, advanced to second on an error and to third on a passed ball. She scored when Steph Salter (Jr.-Schofield/D. C. Everest) pushed a bunt past a drawn in infield into left. In the sixth, Mandy Tschernach (Jr.-Rice Lake) reached on a one-out error. She raced to third when Amber Haack (Jr.-Madison/La Follette) drilled a double that hit the top of the outfield fence and bounced back into the field of play. Tschernach scored on a wild pitch which also advanced Haack who scored on Kettinger's hit that fell over the outstretched hands of a back-pedaling shortstop.
McKinney lost her shutout in the sixth when a windblown ball was not handled by the Blugolds on the infield with runners at second and third.
The Blugolds provided McKinney with plenty of cushion in the seventh as they pushed across three more with the aid of three hits including a run-scoring double by Jill Janke (So.-Black River Falls) and a two-run triple by Tschernach.
McKinney finished with a three-hitter and nine strikeouts against a team that is 33-12 for the year.
Eight of the nine spots in the Blugold lineup came through with hits including two each from Tschernach, Kettinger and Salter for a total of 11.
What may have been a numbing wind for the fans did not seem to affect the Blugold players. Tschernach said she was "too focused to be cold." McKinney said "I?ve pitched in this before." Salter said the team was confident. "We knew what we had to do."
The Blugolds were not concerned with whom they would face next. "We just focus on us," said Salter. "We believe we can do it," said Tschernach. "I?ve got a good defense behind me," said McKinney.
The Blugolds' next contest is scheduled at 2 p.m. Saturday against Hope College. Hope College defeated Chicago today 2-0. A win for the Blugolds on Saturday would mean that they would need just one more win on Monday to claim the regional title and a berth in the NCAA nationals. No games will be played Sunday.