New Richmond baseball team gets blunt directive and respondsAn emotional few weeks took a toll on the play of the New Richmond baseball team. A blunt reminder from Tiger coach Chad Fehrman appears to have snapped the Tigers out of their doldrums.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
An emotional few weeks took a toll on the play of the New Richmond baseball team. A blunt reminder from Tiger coach Chad Fehrman appears to have snapped the Tigers out of their doldrums.
The Tigers lost their final three Middle Border Conference games, which dropped them from third to fourth place in the final MBC standings. The third of those losses was a 2-1 loss at Osceola last Thursday where the Tigers were limited to one hit.
That was all the Tiger coaches could take. The first 30 minutes of Friday’s practice was spent with the Tiger varsity and junior varsity teams running onto and off the field at full speed. The coaches were sending a clear message, saying that was the speed they expected the Tigers to be playing at during every moment of every game.
The Tigers responded with renewed vitality. They played in a tournament in River Falls on Saturday, opening with a 6-4 win over the Wildcats. In the second round of the tournament the Tigers came out on the losing end of an offensive battle with Wausau East, 9-7.
“That was probably the most enthusiastic, energetic game we played all season,” Fehrman said of the win over River Falls.
Senior Justin Johnson pitched the complete game victory against River Falls, bouncing back from his most difficult outing of the season.
One of the biggest improvements shown by the Tigers on Saturday was their defense. The team has not been overly sharp on defense all season. With one error against River Falls and two against Wausau East, Fehrman said he thought the defense took a big step forward on Saturday.
One of the reasons the defense improved Saturday was the insertion of sophomore Jeremy Leavens at shortstop. The coaches have spent the season searching for a natural shortstop and Leavens did everything the coaches asked on Saturday.
Fehrman said all the Tigers showed quicker reactions and weren’t afraid to get their uniforms dirty. He said that effort was led by first baseman Josh Kizer, who made several impressive defensive plays.
The Tigers also did a better job of milking runs out of their scoring chances on Saturday. Against River Falls they were able to turn five hits and four walks into six runs.
The game was scoreless until the Tigers’ half of the fourth inning. Kizer led off with a hit and Andy Kittel followed with his first varsity homer, a blast over the leftfield fence. Zach Parfitt then showed the hustle the coaches were looking for. On his high-arcing flyball to centerfield, Parfitt sprinted to second base. When the ball was dropped for an error, Parfitt had put himself in scoring position. Tate Ziebol promptly cashed in, with his single bringing Parfitt home.
The Tigers were able to score three more runs in the fifth inning, thanks to one hit, four walks and a River Falls error.
Against Wausau East, Fehrman decided to give sophomore Hayden Nelson his first varsity pitching assignment after Nelson had pitched admirably in relief against Osceola last week. Nelson got through the first inning with no trouble, but he gave up three runs in the second and third innings. Reliever Kyle Shilts had control issues, giving up two runs in one-third of an inning. Senior Ryan Keehr settled things down, allowing two hits and one run over the final three innings.
The offensive story of the game was Kittel, who capped the best day of his varsity career with five RBI against Wausau. Kittel’s two-run single in the first inning gave the Tigers a brief 2-0 lead. Kittel tried to rally the Tigers in the seventh inning. His bases-loaded double scored three runs, cutting the final margin to 9-7.
The improved effort on Saturday came on the heels of last Thursday’s 2-1 loss at Osceola. That loss was the third straight for the Tigers in MBC action, dropping them to 7-7 and fourth place in the final conference standings. The only hit for the Tigers against Osceola came from senior Dalton Sabby. Nate Jones, Nelson and Keehr split the mound time for the Tigers in that game, with Jones taking the loss.
The Division 1 baseball seeding was completed over the weekend and the Tigers received the 12th seed in the 16-team Division 1 sectional tournament bracket. The Tigers will face the fifth seed, Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln. That game will be played next Tuesday at Ritter Park in Wisconsin Rapids. The winner of Tuesday’s game will play again two days later, facing Chippewa Falls, the fourth seed. That game will be played at 5 p.m. on May 31 at Casper Park in Chippewa Falls.
The Tigers will complete their regular season this Thursday with a game at Eau Claire Memorial.