Oshkosh softball falls to third in WIAC standings

Michael Johrendt

The UW Oshkosh softball team lost its first road game of the season and ended its eight-game winning streak by dropping both games of a doubleheader against UW-La Crosse on Monday.

These two losses made the Titans fall to third place in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings, behind UW-Whitewater and UW-Stout.

Coming into the doubleheader against the Eagles, UWO held a 20-4 record, good enough for 21st in the national rankings.

The Eagles have now won three straight games over the Titans after Oshkosh had won the previous six contests.

In the first game of the doubleheader, Oshkosh was able to muster five hits against La Crosse, resulting in a 5-0 defeat. Senior pitcher Sara Brunlieb pitched three innings, allowing four earned runs and seven hits on one strikeout, earning her third loss of the year.

Junior third baseman Erika Berry, a WIAC Student-Athlete Spotlight recipient for UWO, had the only extra base hit in the game with a double, as she finished one-for-three with a walk.

Sophomore right fielder Emma Fionda, freshman utility player Clare Petrus, freshman shortstop Natalie Dudek and senior pinch hitter Paige Giese each had a hit in the contest.

Regardless of the results of the doubleheader, junior pitcher Clare Robbe said the team has the outlook to remain focused as the year continues.

“In the past, we coasted through some of the season and didn’t finish like we started,” Robbe said. “This year, however, we will win that title, and we will maintain that focus on the NCAA tournament. With that being said, our improvement from last year is the grit, grind and mind that it takes to be successful throughout the entire season.”

Sophomore catcher Abby Menting earned three walks in the game, increasing her on base percentage in conference play to .550. Menting echoed Robbe’s outlook on the postseason aspirations the team has and said the team has the intangibles to remain a cohesive unit.

“Last season, we did not really match up to our goals from the beginning of the season,” Menting said. “We kind of declined at the end of the season when we would rather go on a winning streak or be playing our best ball. Putting it together, we are very dynamic and are very different, which is a good thing. All in all, our goal is to make it into the tournament and do the best that we can with the team that we have.”

Robbe took over for Brunlieb and pitched from the fourth inning on in the contest, throwing three innings and only allowing two hits and one unearned run while striking out one Eagle. This marked the first shutout of the season for the Titans, as UWO left nine runners on base.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Oshkosh put up a run but still fell to La Crosse, 4-1. Sophomore pitcher Bailey Smaney broke her unbeaten record on the season as she went three innings, striking out one and allowing four earned runs.

The lone run of the contest for Oshkosh came across to score in the top of the fourth inning, as Fionda scored on a fielding error from the Eagles’ third baseman on a ball hit by sophomore first baseman Kaitlyn Krol.

Oshkosh put up fewer hits in this contest than the first game, as Krol, Dudek, Petrus and freshman second baseman Amanda McIlhany all had singles in the game. Oshkosh had no extra-base hits in the game, struck out seven times and left three Titans on base in the loss.

Senior outfielder Lauren Torborg, one of three seniors on the roster, said moments like these are made easier by the close-knit nature of the team.

“Seniors and juniors have experienced how hard balancing school and athletics becomes when the season starts,” Torborg said. “It can be physically and mentally draining.
Having the team to rely on for support, especially the upperclassmen, during those tough times is essential.”

The team looks to begin a new winning streak when they host Carthage College for a doubleheader at home tonight. They also host a doubleheader against the 1st-place team in the WIAC, Whitewater, on Saturday, followed by away doubleheader at Lakeland University on Tuesday and UW-Stevens Point on Wednesday.