Titans beat Sabres in doubleheader at home

Michael Johrendt

Sophomore Brianna Witter rounds third base and heads home on a double play.
[/media-credit] Sophomore Brianna Witter rounds third base and heads home on a double play.

The UW Oshkosh softball team won both games in its doubleheader against Marian University on Wednesday.

After having played their first 18 games on the road, the Titans came home and played their first two home games of the 2017 campaign.

In the opening game, UWO won by a score of 5-1. Oshkosh was able to push three of its five runs across the plate in the first two innings, helping the Titans beat the Sabres.

Starting on the mound for Oshkosh was senior Sara Brunlieb, who went four innings, and only allowed three hits while striking out three Sabres. This marked the fifth victory of the season for Brunlieb, who did not walk a single batter.

Junior pitcher Clare Robbe came in and earned her first save of the season, pitching the final three innings. She faced 12 batters, only allowing an RBI single in the sixth inning.

Offensively, the team was led by junior third baseman Erika Berry’s performance at the plate. In the first game, Berry went three-for-three with two runs driven in, including a two-RBI double in the bottom of the second inning.

Stemming from the Florida trip, head coach Scott Beyer said the team needed to improve upon the small things in order to remain solid throughout the year, and so far the team has made substantial gains in these areas.

“We are very young defensively, and some things in high school they don’t do that we do in college, so the game moves faster,” Beyer said. “The little things on offense, getting bunts down and running bases right, the little things first. We got better.”

In the contest UWO had one sacrifice fly in the contest by freshman infielder Natalie Dudek, testament to the improvements Beyer had talked about.

Of the seventeen team members, nine Titans are currently either freshmen or sophomores. Robbe said the team’s success is paramount to the leadership of the upperclassmen, and there is even a nickname for this youth movement.

“We have the team slogan this year that is ‘YOTTO’ meaning, ‘Year of the Take Over,’” Robbe said. “The role of the upperclassmen is mainly to keep the work ethic and goal to win into our underclassmen. We have some amazingly talented ball players as our underclassmen who push the upperclassmen for their spots on the field which is awesome.”
The scoring for Oshkosh occurred in the first, second, third and sixth innings, as four different Titans knocked in runs in the victory.

In the second game of the doubleheader, UWO won against the Sabres by a score of 6-3. In the victory, sophomore Bailey Smaney earned her third win of the season by going six innings while only allowing one earned Sabres run.

Oshkosh was led at the plate by sophomore right fielder Emma Fionda, who contributed three hits in four plate appearances while scoring a run and driving in two Titans in the victory. Other contributions came from Berry, sophomore first baseman Kaitlyn Krol, senior left fielder Lauren Torborg and freshman second baseman Amanda McIlhany as they each drove in a run.

Along with Berry, Krol and Fionda having at least two hits, sophomore catcher Abby Menting had two hits and earned a walk in the win.

The influx of youth on the team makes the roles of upperclassmen that much more important, and assistant coach Lynn Anderson said that the competition between the underclassmen and the veterans is needed to create a solid team.

“You always want to have competitiveness on the team amongst positions,” Anderson said. “So when you have a young kid coming in and pushing those upperclassmen to play better and perform better, it is that good competition that is going to make those upperclassmen better. Then they are going to push themselves to make the younger kids better because they want to work hard.”

The Titans will host UW-Platteville and UW-Eau Claire for doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday April 8-9.