Softball earns three wins in NFCA Leadoff Classic

Shelby Howe, Sports Writer

UW Oshkosh softball ended the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Leadoff Classic last weekend in Tucson, Arizona with three wins and three losses.

On Friday, the Titans fell to George Fox University 10-2 and later beat Messiah College 10-5. On Saturday, the Titans continued to stay even with a 15-5 loss to Babson College and a 12-3 win over DePauw University. Sunday’s games concluded the tournament, and the Titans finished with a one-run victory over Wittenberg University by a score of 4-3 and losing to the University of St. Thomas 11-6.

Sophomore second baseman Amanda Mcilhany accounted for four of the 13 hits that UWO had on Friday night and leads the team with a .667 batting average this season. Mcilhany said she is looking forward to a successful season and that the team has set goals can be seen as improvements from last season.

“As a team we set small goals that will eventually lead us to our end goal of winning conference and making it to the NCAA tournament,” Mcilhany said.

On Saturday, junior catcher Abby Menting hit a grand slam against DePauw University, and senior third baseman Erika Berry had a solid three-for-three performance at the plate with a double and walk.

To complete the weekend, junior first baseman and pitcher Kaitlyn Krol hit a single and a triple against Wittenberg University and then had a double and a home run against the University of St. Thomas. Freshman outfielder Carly Szada also hit a home run, the first of her career.

On the trip, sophomore pitcher and outfielder Natalie Dillon earned four hits and four walks across the six-game spread. In 16 plate appearances, Dillon had a double and a triple and drove in one run.

For the tournament, Dillon said because it was invite-only, the team understood the opportunity it had to face off against other ranked teams from across the country.

“We knew it would be tough competition,” Dillon said. “Before we left, Coach said if we went 3-3 that would be okay, but he really wanted to be 4-2. However, we have a new motto or saying this year, ‘We don’t know how to lose,’ so of course we wanted to win every game possible. We go into games with the mentality that we are the better team.”

Even with the team having a 7-3 record and having gone an even 3-3 over the weekend, Dillon said the team’s performance was not on the level it should be yet.

“I felt like we could have performed better,” Dillon said. “We didn’t play us; we didn’t play our game. Realistically, we could have gone 5-1, but this is a learning experience. We will come out of this knowing who we are and the type of team we are.”

Trying to compound off last season’s performance, in which the team had 33 victories and fell in the Trine Super Regional, head coach Scott Beyer said the team is using last year’s performance to gauge how the team wants to perform this year.

“We went to the NCAA Super Regional last season and lost two games by a combined three runs, so our biggest goal is to get back to the NCAA tournament and advance to the World Series,” Beyer said. “We also want to win 30 games this year, which with one of the hardest schedules in the country, will not be easy.”

The Titans’ efforts were not overlooked by the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference as they were awarded with two WIAC softball player of the week honors.

Krol and right-handed pitcher Claire Petrus were given the awards for their games during the span of Feb. 26 – March 4.

Krol was named the league’s top positional player and Petrus was dubbed the league’s top pitcher for the week.

Krol went 8-18, slugging at a .833 clip in Arizona and had a 100 percent fielding percentage. Petrus won all three of her decisions on the weekend, recording a 3.21 ERA over 24 innings.