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Blugold baseball hoping to build off weekend success

With two conference wins over the weekend, the Blugold baseball team hopes to use those victories as momentum to continue their winning ways as they prepare for three double headers in the next five days.

Coming off what can accurately be described as a ‘homerpalooza’ against UW-Stout Sunday afternoon, the Blugolds definitely came out swinging and got their groove on, so to speak, as they finished their two-day, four-game series with a series split over the Blue Devils.

Now the squad hopes to build upon that confidence gained against the Blue Devils as they continue play in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) this weekend with a home series against UW-Platteville. But first, as a tune up for some more conference play, the team travels to Northland College for a doubleheader on Wednesday. The first game begins at 1 p.m. in Ashland, with the second one scheduled to start at 3 p.m. Both games against Northland will be seven-inning contests.

That’s followed by resumption of WIAC play when the Pioneers come to Carson Park for two double headers this Saturday and Sunday. Games both days are slated for 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.

The UWEC baseball team finished that four-game series at UW-Stout with a split after winning one of two games on Sunday. The Blugolds dropped the first game of the day 14-6, but responded with a 20-9 victory in the series finale. In Saturday’s split with the Blue Devils, UW-Eau Claire took the first game by a score of 13-7, but lost the second contest by an 8-2 count.

A home run barrage in Game 2 Sunday afternoon in Menomonie helped the Blugolds (8-22 overall, 2-14, WIAC) end the series on a high note. UW-Eau Claire blasted three home runs in the first inning as part of an eight-run frame and never looked back. Diego Caicedo started it with a three-run shot, Carson Windeshausen added a solo homer and Drew Salyers capped it off with a two-run homer. Windeshausen finished the series with four homers, while Caicedo and Salyers finished with two apiece.

The first inning was the highlight, but the Blugolds kept scoring in game two. They pounded 21 hits in the contest, with eight players recording multi-hit games. They scored twice in the second, three times in the third, once in the fourth, twice in the fifth, eighth and ninth. Salyers, Windeshausen, Ryan Casimier and Walter Johnson all had three hits. Caicedo, Connor Weik, Brayton Thillman and Cade Mueller added two hits apiece, and Mueller had a team-high four RBI.

The Blugolds had seven extra-base hits in the victory. Joe Clinton pitched five innings to earn the victory and improve to 2-0 this year. Sebastian De La Toba threw four scoreless innings in relief to earn a save, his second of the year.

Salyers and Windeshausen both homered and combined for five hits in the first game for the Blugolds, but it wasn’t enough to win. The Blue Devils pulled away with three runs in the fourth and four in both the fifth and sixth innings.

Pleased that his team’s hard work and dedication to the game reaped substantial dividends last weekend, UW-Eau Claire head baseball coach Patrick Reilly thinks the two wins and also the home run derby displayed by his squad on Sunday will bolster them moving forward.

“They’ve worked really hard through this season and WIAC season and finally got to see some of their hard work earn them some wins. They guys were super excited to win some games and it definitely will help their confidence going into the final stretch of WIAC play,” Reilly told the Leader-Telegram.

While the team has been finding its footing under Reilly, in his first year as the Blugolds’ head coach, he said he and his coaching staff thought there was certainly a level of talent on the team that gave them the belief that they would eventually see the players ignite like they did on Sunday.

“As a coaching staff, we knew we had some pieces that could provide some offense. However, it all came down to dealing with failure and continuing to show up…which is something we have preached to them all year,” the head coach said in reference to the firepower shown by the squad this past weekend and especially on Sunday.

Reilly added that “It was great to see some of our student-athletes get opportunities and really run with them. We had a handful of players that weren’t getting regular playing time play huge roles in our series split and as a coaching staff we couldn’t be happier for them. Those student-athletes have continued to show up at practice with a great attitude and thought ‘team-first’ and those are the types of student-athletes our coaching staff really wants to work with.”

As for what specifically the team is working on as they prepare for Northland and Platteville, Reilly commented that one of the main objectives of the squad is to remain

“We just continue to stay positive regardless of what the scoreboard showed and continually talked about making routine baseball plays. We played a really clean four-game series defensively, pitched it well and limited free bases, but ultimately had enough offense in two of the four games to come away with a split,” Reilly said.

As for what challenges he thinks that Platteville might present to the Blugolds, Reilly knows the Pioneers will bring their A-game to Carson Park this weekend.

“Another WIAC team that is incredibly well coached and presents a lot of challenges for us. They’ve gone through a very challenging conference schedule just like we have and had a huge win against UW-La Crosse (who is currently ranked 10th in the nation). They clearly can compete against anyone in D3. We are excited to get back to Carson Park and show our fans and community how much we have improved since they saw us last.”

Blugolds.com contributed to the game recap portion of this story.