’Hawks bringing the brooms out

When the Warhawks won a WIAC title in 2009, one of the strengths of the team was its ability to sweep doubleheaders.

The ’Hawks swept 10 of the  11 doubleheaders they played against conference and non-conference foes that season.

In 2011, taking both games of a doubleheader has been a problem for the ’Hawks. The team had split four of its seven twin bills this season, including three matchups with WIAC opponents.

But after taking a pair of games against conference-leader UW-Eau Claire last Sunday, luck is starting to shift the ’Hawks’ way.

Not only did the team win the two games, it dominated them.

Senior pitcher Jessica Stang led the way, allowing no runs in two complete games and scattering five hits.

“Eau Claire had a lot of lefties on their team so that’s why we decided to have her pitch both games,” head coach Brenda Volk said.  “Our fate is also in our hands right now. We have three losses in the conference … we felt that if we still wanted a shot at that No. 1 seed [in the WIAC tournament] it was really important for us to get those two games.”

The ’Hawks will look to continue their hot streak as they take on the University of Dubuque in a doubleheader starting at 3 p.m. today.

Senior first baseman Jordyn Gaza said while these games might not matter in terms of conference standings, they’re something the team needs to win to keep the momentum going.

“We want to get as far as we can this year,” Gaza said. “These are the games where we need to go in with a good attitude and not take any team for granted.”

Backing up Stang’s impressive performance was the emergence of a powerful offense led by sophomore catcher Emily Epifanio.

The Park Ridge, Ill., native has transformed into a potent weapon for the ’Hawks in her second season behind the plate.

Epifanio led off the doubleheader with two mammoth home runs and then was pitched around for the rest of the doubleheader, drawing six walks.

Volk said this is something she expected, as Epifanio has made great strides since the team’s spring break trip.

“She’s played great against conference foes so that’s why I think they’re a little more wary about actually pitching to her,” Volk said. “She’s been a big stick for us.”