Softball has a strong showing in Florida over break

Alfred Johnson, Sports Writer

The UW Oshkosh softball team faced a daunting 10-game stretch in its trip to Clermont, Florida this past week, coming out with a six-win, three-loss and one rainout outcome over spring break. Going into the games, the Titans held a 9-3 record and were ranked 25th in the NCAA Division III polls.

The team’s schedule consisted of two games both on March 18 and March 23 with the additional six games taking place on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in between. Head coach Scott Beyer said the team stuck to the basics to prepare for the tough, long stretch.

“We tried to keep it fundamental and keep it simple,” Beyer said. “The only thing we did was condition more and try to be more mentally tough for the heat in Florida.”

The first matchup on the 18th pitted the Titans against Clarkson University of New York. UWO kicked off the week with a 3-2 win over Clarkson. Senior third baseman Erika Berry led the way by going 3-for-4 at the plate, with two doubles, two runs scored and a steal. Sophomore pitcher Claire Petrus went the distance in her first game of the week, striking out three batters and allowing two runs on seven hits.

In the second game, UWO faced Worcester State University, where Berry and freshman outfielder Kailee Garstecki led the way offensively by each contributing three hits. The Titans jumped out to a 7-0 lead with the exclamation point coming in the seventh inning with Berry’s solo home run, leading to a 9-2 victory.

On Monday, the team faced Manchester University and came away with a 12-6 win. The team was swinging for the fences with 11 different players recording hits, totaling up to a season-tying 16 hits.

On the mound, sophomore pitcher Natalie Dillon earned the start and her first collegiate victory, only giving up three runs in two innings. She was relieved by junior pitcher Kaitlyn Krol and junior Bailey Smaney, with Smaney earning her first career save.

The team experienced its first setback of the week to conclude Monday’s action with a 1-0 loss to Williams College, who appeared in the national semifinals last year. The Titans were stifled at the plate by Williams College’s Pitcher Rebecca Duncan, who held the Titans to just one hit and no runs, with the lone hit for Oshkosh being a single by sophomore shortstop Natalie Dudek.

UWO bounced back on Tuesday by handing Calvin College its first loss with a 5-0 victory, even with Calvin College boasting the second-best earned run average in the country by allowing just 0.51 runs per game. The Titans totaled seven hits, including a clutch three-run sixth inning to extend the lead to 5-0.

The Titans returned to action on Thursday against Benedictine University, with UWO suffering a 10-2 setback.

Benedictine exploded for five runs in the first inning and Oshkosh faced an early 9-0 deficit that it couldn’t overcome. Junior catcher Abby Menting and sophomore second baseman Amanda Mcilhany each recorded two hits. For Benedictine, four different batters recorded two hits.

Oshkosh concluded the day with an epic comeback after falling behind 6-0 to Farmingdale State College after two innings. Oshkosh responded with a nine-run third inning, consisting of four hits and four Farmingdale errors.

Senior outfielder Brianna Witter had a huge bases-loaded triple in the frame, tying things up at six. On the mound, Smaney recorded her second save of the week, pitching three scoreless innings to help the Titans secure its fifth win of the week.

On the final day of action, UWO suffered its third setback of the week with a 9-0 defeat to Hope College. The Titans faced Hope College’s all-time leader in strikeouts, pitcher Sydney Jones, who struck out nine Titans and pitched her third shutout of the year. She also held the Titans to just three hits, one apiece from Dudek, Witter and Dillon.

In the final game of the week, Titans finished strong with a 10-2 victory over the University of Chicago. Oshkosh never trailed in the outing after taking advantage of two big errors committed by Chicago. UWO recorded 15 hits in the game with Berry, Menting and Mcilhany all earning three hits apiece.

Smaney got the start for the Titans’ last game and kept Chicago’s batters at bay, including earning a huge groundout to get herself out of a bases-loaded situation in the fourth, leading to a third-run fifth inning to seal the win for the Titans.

Through the ups and downs, Krol said the team feels very good about what happened this past week.

“I was happy with the team’s performance overall,” Krol said. “I think Florida in general is always a learning experience. We got some bigger wins against high quality teams.”

Junior outfielder Emma Fionda said the team felt it could have performed slightly better than they did.

“Just knowing all of the talent we have before us and the depth we have at certain positions, I personally was slightly disappointed because I know how good we are,” Fionda said. “However, we came across a lot of hurdles and now what we can do to overcome those and what we are capable of.”

Looking ahead, the Titans get the week off but will resume action when it heads into conference play on April 5 against Marian University.