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Short-handed Somerset baseball team just hoping for good health

Zach Waalen has stepped up to pitch some important innings for the Spartans in the early stages of the 2012 season.

The health situation for the Somerset baseball team is so bad, the Spartans brought up a junior varsity player so they'd have one substitute available for last Tuesday's game against Prescott.

And as the Spartans' luck has gone this season, the JV player sprained his ankle, leaving the Spartans to play with nine players against Prescott. The Spartans kept the game competitive, but lost to the undefeated Cardinals 7-1.

Somerset was able to earn a non-conference win on Thursday, traveling to Barron to tackle the Bears, 4-2. When the Spartans returned to Middle Border Conference action on Friday, it resulted in another setback. The Spartans dropped to 0-3 in conference games with a 10-0 loss to the Ellsworth Panthers.

The health issues have taken a toll on the Spartan lineup. Seniors Cody Joiner and Evan Gaddis have missed much of the season and junior Jordan Langness can only play defense because of a hip injury. With the short-handed roster, the Spartans were limited to one hit by Ellsworth and three hits by Prescott.

Spartan coach Brandon Kadlec said he saw some good things from the team during the loss to Prescott. He said the team showed better plate discipline and the players were making better contact at the plate. The Spartans weren't able to get their first hit until the sixth inning when senior Austin Bushinger singled. The Spartans scored in the seventh inning on singles by Andy Peters and Dominic Lohmeier.

Zach Waalen got the pitching start for the Spartans against Prescott. His streak of 10 shutout innings to start the season was stopped when Prescott scored three times in the first inning. Kadlec said Waalen has shown that he can handle the pressures of pitching at the varsity level.

"He's got good mound presence for a sophomore," Kadlec said.

The Spartans didn't show the same plate discipline on Friday that they had against Prescott. Ellsworth's James Georgakas struck out 11 Spartans among the 15 outs recorded in the five-inning game.

"We swung at Georgakas' curveballs in the dirt," Kadlec said.

Georgakas struck out the side in the second, fourth and fifth innings. The only hit for the Spartans on Friday was a second inning single by senior Ryan Himes.

Bushinger started on the mound for the Spartans at Ellsworth, with Nate Olin and Haydon Dvorak pitching in relief.

The beacon from the week for the Spartans was the win at Barron. Joiner was able to make his first pitching start, working the first three innings.

A huge surprise was the relief pitching supplied by Andy Peters. He handled the final four innings without a problem, striking out eight Bears while allowing one hit and one walk.

The Spartans didn't pound the ball at Barron, but they put together productive innings when they got an early baserunner. The Spartans scored single runs in the first, second, third and fifth innings. Himes and Lohmeier led the offense with two hits each and Himes drove home two of the four runs.

This win was important to the Spartans because Somerset and Barron are in the same WIAA regional tournament bracket and this gives the Spartans the upper hand for seeding purposes.

The conference schedule continues for the Spartans this Thursday, when they play at Amery. On Saturday the Spartans will play in a tournament at Baldwin-Woodville, where they are scheduled to face Hayward and Barron. The Spartans will head right back to Baldwin next Tuesday, for an MBC game against the Blackhawks.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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