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New Richmond Legion team beaten in home regional tournament

The New Richmond American Legion baseball team put on a great show as the host team of the American Legion Class AA regional tournament over the weekend.

Unfortunately, it also marked the end of the 2009 season for New Richmond's Post 80 Legion team.

Post 80 lost both of its games in the regional tournament, getting knocked out of the double-elimination process. Post 80 ends its 2009 season with a 20-8 record. Last year, in the team's first year, Post 80 finished with a 19-8 record.

Fans got their money's worth and then some in New Richmond's first game in the tournament. New Richmond faced River Falls and it took 12 innings before the game could be decided. River Falls was able to produce a run in the 12th inning to win 6-5.

Nick Swystun started on the mound for New Richmond, working the first 10 innings. River Falls scored three times in the first two innings.

"Then Nick got stronger and stronger," said New Richmond coach Mark Kohlrusch.

River Falls scored two more runs in the fifth inning. Swystun didn't allow a hit in his final five innings of work.

New Richmond got its first two runs in the fourth inning. With two outs, Grant Nelson walked and Dylan Leslie was hit by a pitch. Jordan Maxon then pounded a triple that brought both runners home.

Post 80 tied the game with three runs in the seventh inning. Kyle Miller started the seventh with a double and Riley Kannel singled. Jared Kidder hit into a fielder's choice, but there was a throwing error as River Falls tried to complete the double play. Dan Leavens followed with a double, bringing home Kidder and cutting the RF lead to 5-4.

Swystun singled, putting runners on the corners. Nelson's fly ball to centerfield was deep enough to get Leavens home with the tying run.

New Richmond got runners to second base in the eighth, ninth and 12th innings, but couldn't get the one hit they needed to get the winning run home.

Leavens finished the game with three hits to lead Post 80 and Miller had two hits.

In the second round of the tournament New Richmond lost to Spooner 4-2 last Thursday. That eliminated New Richmond from the tournament.

The Spooner team was really an all-star team of players from that part of the state. Spooner's roster included players from Luck, Hayward and Drummond.

Jake Zajkowski pitched against Spooner and gave one of his best performances of the summer. His downfall was the third inning, when he gave up five hits, four of them going for doubles.

New Richmond had taken a 2-0 lead with two runs in the top of the fourth inning. Kidder reached on an error and scored on a double from Leavens. Leavens came across when Maxon singled.

Post 80 had threats in the fifth and sixth innings, but again were one hit shy of breaking open a big inning.

Kohlrusch said the sporadic hitting was a trademark of the team's summer.

"Our pitching was as good as anybody's," Kohlrusch said. "Our hitting was just too inconsistent."

Post 80 was without Michael Jansen for the tournament. Kohlrusch said that Jansen, still recovering from a badly sprained ankle, would have batted cleanup in the New Richmond lineup.

Menomonie won the tournament championship, beating Spooner in the final game 7-5 to earn a trip to the state tournament.

New Richmond played its final regular season games last Monday and Tuesday. Monday's games didn't go well, with New Richmond dropping a double-header to Ellsworth by scores of 4-3 and 2-1.

New Richmond ended the regular season on a loud note, blasting Grantsburg 11-1. Leavens and Kidder led the team with three hits each.

Kohlrusch said there is a possibility that New Richmond could field two Legion teams next summer.

Because there will be a large number of seniors on next year's New Richmond High School team, there is interest in having a senior Legion team next summer. Once players have graduated, they can't play junior Legion ball. There appears to be enough interest where New Richmond could sponsor junior and senior Legion teams next summer. This would give more JV level players an opportunity to play over the summer.