Eau Claire (WQOW) — For the 12th time in program history and first since 2013, the UW-Eau Claire softball team has made the NCAA tournament. The Blugolds received an at-large bid Monday, and will travel to Saint Paul, Minnesota for the St. Thomas regional.
UW-Eau Claire is coming off back to back tough weekends, dropping a doubleheader to UW-Whitewater at home for the conference title and then getting swept by UW-La Crosse this past weekend in the WIAC championship. But now the Blugolds have another opportunity, as they go for their first national championship since 2008.
“They were so excited to get the at-large,” says head coach Leslie Huntington. “There’s video on social media of the celebration, when our name came up on the screen. So the team is really excited, this is what they’ve worked for.”
“We were watching it, and we saw Whitewater’s name come up first, and we were all like dang,” sophomore catcher/infielder Abbey Place says. “But then we kept watching, and our name popped up and everyone went crazy. It was definitely an experience, I don’t know how to explain it.”
UW-Eau Claire has won 26 games so far this season, and finished in second-place in both the regular season and tournament in the WIAC. Their opponent for Thursday’s opening round game is Wartburge College (IA), who also has won 26 games this season and will provide a tough test.
“They’ve had a good season to, and their record is identical,” Huntington says. “We’ve played a lot of different opponents, but they’re in the ever strong Iowa Conference which is now the American Rivers Conference. So we’re going to have to play really well to beat them.”
“We just need to focus on finishing I think, because we’ve made it to the conference championship, we’ve made it to the WIAC championship, we just came up short,” says Place. “So I think what we’re going to focus on the next two days is just finishing or finish what we started.”
The Blugolds take on Wartburg College Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Saint Paul, Minnesota.