Rice Lake ruins Tigers’ sectional hopesThree times in the past four years, the New Richmond softball team has advanced to the WIAA Division 2 sectional tournament.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
Three times in the past four years, the New Richmond softball team has advanced to the WIAA Division 2 sectional tournament.
And each time, their run at the sectional tournament was ended by Rice Lake.
Rice Lake defeated New Richmond in last Thursday’s sectional semifinals in one of most dramatic finishes the Tigers have experienced in their highly successful careers.
New Richmond trailed 4-3 entering the seventh inning. The Tigers then scored twice in the top of the seventh to take a 5-4 lead. Rice Lake rallied with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to score twice and defeat the Tigers 6-5.
Rice Lake went on to beat Altoona in the sectional championship game.
New Richmond ends its season with an 18-3 record. The loss ends the careers of the Tiger seniors, who have been the most successful class in team history. The Tigers have won three straight Middle Border Conference championships. Several of the seniors have been on the varsity for all four seasons and they have been part of more than 60 victories in their careers.
Leading that success has been pitcher Nikki Singerhouse. She finished the season with a 17-2 record and has more than 50 wins to her credit during her high school career. Singerhouse threw another strong game in the sectional tournament.
“Her drop and rise were working well and she had good velocity,” said Tiger coach Jim McCullum. “She got a lot of ground balls. We just didn’t always make the plays behind her.”
The Tigers showed they were well prepared for the game, scoring three runs in the first inning. Hannah Bygd and Dani Lagerstrom put together consecutive singles. Libby Jensen then drove a triple down the rightfield line to deliver the first two runs of the game. Jensen scored when Alyssa Martinson reached on an error.
The Tigers had several unsure moments on defense during the game and Rice Lake took advantage of one of them to score a run in the bottom of the first. The defensive problems reared their head again in the second inning, when Rice Lake was able to score twice on Tiger miscues, tying the game.
The nerves seemed to clear both teams systems and neither team scored again until Rice Lake tallied in the bottom of the sixth inning. Rice Lake got that run on a Tiger error and a two-out triple down the leftfield line. Singerhouse stranded that runner at third, getting the final out on a liner to leftfield.
Down to their last inning, the Tigers responded by taking the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh. With one out, Ashley Stoffel singled and moved to second base on an outfield bobble. After another out, Billie Jo Germain stepped to the plate. The sophomore had been inserted at designated hitter for the tournaments. She showed why in this at-bat, slashing a triple down the rightfield line that scored Stoffel with the tying run.
Paige Spaulding continued the rally, sending a sizzle to the leftfield gap for a double that scored Germain. Bygd then reached on an error, before Lagerstrom flied to centerfield for the final out.
The seventh inning drama had just begun. Rice Lake’s leadoff hitter reached on an error. The next batter hit a pop fly to shallow rightfield. Kristy Martinson ranged from second base to the outfield to snare the fly. The Warrior on first base had gone well past second base before retreating to first base. Several Tiger fans noticed that she had not touched second base when retracing her steps. Singerhouse threw the ball to Lagerstrom at shortstop for the appeal. The home plate umpire also had seen the runner miss second base and he called the runner out. That put the Tigers within one out of getting the win.
They never got that out.
Rice Lake’s next batter singled past second base. The next batter singled to rightfield. A walk loaded the bases, after several close pitches that Tiger fans thought should have been called the third strike. The next Warrior sent a line drive to rightfield that drove home the winning run.