Softball gets important road wins

Shannon Gaul had five hits in the Pioneers' doubleheader at UW-La Crosse, including the game winning RBI single in the tenth inning of game two.
Shannon Gaul had five hits in the Pioneers' doubleheader at UW-La Crosse, including the game winning RBI single in the tenth inning of game two.

LA CROSSE, Wis. – In what were essentially must win games for UW-Platteville to keep their WIAC playoff hopes alive, the Pioneers held off UW-La Crosse for a doubleheader sweep at North Campus Field. UW-Platteville used a hot start in game one to hold on for a 5-4 win, and took game two 4-3 in ten innings.

UW-Platteville (20-14, 5-7 WIAC) got to UW-La Crosse (17-13, 4-4 WIAC) for four runs on six hits to lead off the game, giving starting pitcher Ashton Hoeppner a big cushion to work with.

Hoeppner gave up a pair of runs in the bottom of the third, but the Pioneers got one back in their half of the fourth. Haili Cota led off the fourth with a single, moved to third on Cayleen Ryan's double, and pushed UW-Platteville's lead to 5-2 on a Rachel Martin groundball.

In the bottom of the sixth UW-La Crosse loaded the bases with nobody out. They managed to score two and cut the lead to 5-4 before Hoeppner forced three consecutive groundballs to get out of the inning with the lead intact. 

The Eagles put pressure on the Pioneers once again in the bottom of the seventh with runners on second and third and nobody out, but Hoeppner struck out the final three batters to end the game.

The Pioneers jumped out to another early lead in game two on Jessy Tanel's two-run homerun, her fourth of the year. Abby Burns cruised through the first two and two-thirds innings, but the Eagles strung together three consecutive hits with two outs in the third to tie the game at 2-2. After the Pioneers regained their lead in the top of the fourth on a Shannon Gaul single, UW-La Crosse scored the equalizer once again in the sixth.

After giving up the run in the sixth, Burns recovered to pitch through the ninth inning and retired 10 of the final 11 batters she faced.

Putting together very little threat offensively from the fifth through ninth innings, Abby Jaques drew a walk to lead off the top of the tenth. Three batters later with Jaques standing on second after a passed ball and Tanel walk, Gaul drove a line shot between the shortstop and third baseman, and Jaques wheeled around third for a 4-3 Pioneers' lead.

Hoeppner came on in relief of Burns in the bottom of the tenth. She gave up a two-out single, but ultimately shutdown the Eagles for her third save of the year.

Gaul went 5-of-9 on the afternoon with two RBI and a run scored while five other Pioneers knocked in runs.

The Pioneers finish off their chase for a conference tournament spot Saturday afternoon at the UW-Platteville Softball Complex. They host UW-Oshkosh for a doubleheader in their last games of the regular season. First pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.