Softball wins five games in Florida

Michael Johrendt

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh women’s softball team took home five wins while playing eight non-conference games in Florida over spring break. Playing their games at both Hancock Park and Legends Way Fields, the Titans improved their overall record to 8-4. The Titans faced a plethora of opponents, such as schools from Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri and New Jersey which all offered Oshkosh different challenges from out-of-conference foes. According to sophomore pitcher Clare Robbe, the trip to Florida was a good indicator of the type of skills her team possesses. “We played really tough teams down in Florida; playing good competition early on with a new group of girls is a great learning experience for the whole team,” Robbe said. “We were able to learn a lot about how we work together as a team. We learned that we can beat anybody we face. We are a great team with all the skills to dominate.” Oshkosh began the road trip with a 7-0-shutout win over Elmhurst College (Ill.) on March 19. Freshman catcher Abby Menting and junior outfielder Lauren Torborg led the offensive showing by each hitting a home run. Junior pitcher Sara Brunlieb extended her consecutive scoreless inning streak to 16.1 innings while striking out three. March 21 marked the Titans’ first doubleheader of the trip, as they fell in both games 1-2 and 4-7. This moved the Titans record to 4-3 at the time. After getting the first score of the game, the Titans were held scoreless for the remainder in their first game, losing in a pitching battle. Oshkosh managed five hits while also committing two errors. In the second part of the doubleheader, UWO hung a four-spot on Millikin University (Ill.) in the third inning, but could not score after. Menting went deep again for Oshkosh, as she held a 4-6 combined batting average for the two games. Coach Scott Beyer said the non-conference games played during spring break were important in preparing for future games, especially with the high level of competition the WIAC offers. “We learned a lot about who we are, and we played a really tough schedule down there,” Beyer said. “We had a lot of adversity thrown at us and we had to respond to that, and I think we responded pretty well [by] finding an identity and who we are and who we want to be.” On March 22, UWO used an offensive outpouring to its advantage to win both double-header games. The Titans scored 15 total runs over these two games, while only allowing one. In the first game, Oshkosh allowed three hits in a 7-0 shutout of the University of Maine at Farmington. The Titans had eleven hits and earned seven walks in the contest. Torborg had three hits in four plate appearances, sophomore outfielder Caitlin Hoerning drove in three runs, and junior pitcher Paige Giese earned her first win of the season by striking out three batters over five innings. Giese also drove in three runs for the Titans, and Robbe pitched the final two innings of the game, striking out two without allowing a hit. Brunlieb said she knows that facing early competition is key for the team, as it allows them to get a feel for their competition early on in the season. “There was such a wide variety of teams down in Florida throughout the week so we had that opportunity to play games of quality competition which is awesome,” Brunlieb said. “The WIAC is a very good conference with a lot of competition, so seeing multiple teams that have made it into the conference tournament in the past year gives us a look at the competition we will see in conference and hope to see in the tournament.” In the second game on Tuesday, the Titans defeated Bowdoin College (Maine) 8-1 behind another strong performance of Brunlieb on the mound. She allowed only one unearned run over seven innings, scattering four hits and striking out five. Oshkosh had five stolen bases on the game, including two by Hoerning. Six Titans drove in the eight runs in the game, and Menting, Torborg and senior outfielder Hayden Krueger all had doubles. Thursday’s slate of games had the Titans winning and losing one each. The first game pitted UWO up against MIT, with Oshkosh taking home a 2-1 victory. Giese improved to 2-0 on the season by scattering seven hits and one earned run over five innings, and Brunlieb earned her first save of the season by increasing her streak of not allowing an earned run to 31.1 innings. Freshman first baseman Kaitlyn Krol and senior shortstop Haley Bayreuther each drove in a run for the Titans and sophomore outfielder Brianna Witter had two hits. The second game was Oshkosh’s final defeat on this trip, as they fell 5-6. Giese earned her first loss of the season, and the leadoff hitter Torborg had four hits in the loss. Menting earned four RBI’s on one hit with her first grand slam of the season and the combination of Brunlieb, Robbe, and Giese on the mound struck out six hitters. In the final game of the trip, Oshkosh faced Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ) and won, 5-1. Torborg had two hits and scored twice, and sophomore infielder Tanya Hammitt drove in two runs in the victory. Giese pitched to her third win of the season, allowing only four hits and one run over five innings, with Brunlieb receiving her second save by pitching the final two innings. Up next for Oshkosh are five home doubleheaders, which also marks the beginning of conference play.