By defeating Osceola 7-3 last Tuesday, the New Richmond softball team completed its quest to become the first Middle Border Conference softball team to complete three consecutive undefeated seasons in conference play.
Three years of winning their 14 conference games gives the Tigers an unbeaten run of 42 games. This is the longest winning streak in conference history.
Jim McCullum has been the Tigers' coach throughout this run and has led the team for the past 19 seasons. The Tigers have won the conference title for four of the past five seasons, amassing a 66-4 record in that time. McCullum said this success is a reflection of the athletes that have come through the Tiger system.
"It says our feeder program is bringing up good ballplayers every year. I'm blessed with smart, coachable kids," McCullum said.
Completing the streak has been a point the Tiger seniors could focus on. McCullum said the team has been practicing diligently to make sure the streak was kept alive.
"The seniors are proud to graduate without being beat in the conference in three years," McCullum said.
Leading the Tigers' success during this winning streak has been senior pitcher Nikki Singerhouse. The tall, hard-throwing redhead took over as the Tigers' primary pitcher as a freshman. She's won won more games than any pitcher in conference history and she's prevented opponents from scoring a substantial number of runs against the Tigers.
"Nikki is the pitcher of a lifetime," McCullum said. "Someone who has as much impact on a program as she does, doesn't come along very often."
In conference play this year Singerhouse struck out 99 batters while allowing 43 hits and 15 earned runs.
The Tigers have an offense and defense that matches their pitching quality. The three top hitters in the MBC this season were all Tigers. Dani Lagerstrom was the batting champion with a .553 average. She was followed by Kristy Martinson at .543 and Paige Spaulding at .529. Hannah Bygd was seventh in the conference with a .408 average.
Lagerstrom is the first Tiger to finish as the MBC batting champion since 1993, when Jackie Charland led the conference with a .571 batting average.
In last Tuesday's win at Osceola, the Tigers broke the game open with a six-run second inning. Lagerstrom led the team with two hits and Spaulding drove home two runs. Spaulding and Alyssa Martinson each delivered a triple during the game.
The Tigers are competing in Division 2 in the WIAA tournaments this season. Regionals began last Thursday, where the Tigers drew a bye after being named the top seed in the regional.
On Tuesday the Tigers were scheduled to start WIAA tournament play, in a home game against Cumberland, the fourth seed. The winner of Tuesday's game will advance to the regional title game against the winner of the game between Amery and Baldwin-Woodville. The winner of the regional will advance to the sectional tournament, which will be played on Thursday, May 29 at Rice Lake. The sectional semifinals will be played at 1 p.m., with the championship game following at 3 p.m.