Falcons softball team faces challenges as 2017 season begins

Posted March 8, 2017

The UW-River Falls softball team is heading into its 2017 season with a lot of holes to fill after losing several key players from last year.

Head Coach Amber Dohlman enters her second season at the helm of the Falcons program and is still trying to put her stamp on it. She said that the 2017 campaign will be another building block for the program.

The team lost two all-conference performers from a season ago along with the starting pitcher who led the team in innings pitched.

“We want to re-establish what we’re all about and grow this year,” Dohlman said.

Dohlman was an assistant with UW-Eau Claire for a couple of seasons and said that’s the standard for how she wants her program to operate.

“Being a part of that and seeing the sustained success helped me for my current position,” Dohlman said.

The Falcons also return two all-conference performers from last year’s team in Aiyana Ledwein (honorable mention) and Shannan Borchardt (first team). These two players along with senior Ali Murray will be relied upon heavily for leadership and production.

Borchardt and Ledwein are both starting outfielders while Murray is the starting shortstop. Borchardt led the team in doubles a season ago. Ledwein was second on the team in batting average while also not committing an error in centerfield.

As always, pitching will be a huge part of the season if the Falcons are to have any success.

“We’ve got a young pitching staff and a staff who saw a decent amount of innings last year, but the main person we had didn’t come back this year so we’re putting a lot of pressure onto a sophomore and a freshman,” Dohlman said.

Dohlman emphasized that the first part of the season will be mostly about who’s going to play certain roles on this year’s team.

“We’ve got to be running on full cylinders for conference so the early part of the year is big for us,” Dohlman said.

Don’t expect the Falcons to have the same lineup in consecutive games or even innings in the early stages of this year. Dohlman said she’s going to mix and match to try and find the unit that gives them the best chance to win games once the conference season starts.

Dohlman fully expects her team to struggle in the early going but understands that the conference season is what really matters.

“I think a conference tournament appearance would be big for our program and it’s definitely not out of the question this year if we can get healthy and have consistent pitching,” Dohlman said. Last year the Falcons ended the season with an overall record of 14-22-1.

The Falcons played four games over the weekend in St. Paul and were on the losing end of all the contests. However, two of the opponents are ranked in the Top 10 in the country.

The team will travel to Florida over spring break and play 12 games in seven days. Dohlman said the trip will go a long way in deciding playing time and roles this year.

The first home game for the Falcons won’t come until March 29 when they host Carleton College.