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New Richmond Junior Legion tournament draws top talent

Somerset's Jake Mantalica drove in a pair of runs with this hit in Saturday's win over Altoona.1 / 6
New Richmond's Hayden Nelson gets a lead off third base as Coach Arron Manecke looks on during Saturday's tournament action.2 / 6
Cameron Hausman drew the starting pitching assignment for New Richmond in Saturday's game against River Falls.3 / 6
New Richmond's CJ Kenney puts down a successful sacrifice bunt during the tournament action on Saturday.4 / 6
Somerset's Zack Waalen fires a pitch during Somerset's battle with Altoona in the tournament on Saturday.5 / 6
New Richmond's Drake Durham gets a lead off second base in Saturday's game against River Falls.6 / 6

The five-team Junior American Legion tournament held at New Richmond's Citizens Field showed there is excellent young talent involved in all five organizations playing in the weekend event.

New Richmond was joined in the tournament by Junior Legion teams from Somerset, Ellsworth, River Falls and Altoona. Ellsworth won the tournament by sweeping its four games. Somerset, River Falls and Altoona all went 2-2 and New Richmond was defeated in all four games.

New Richmond was competitive in all four of its contests. New Richmond is younger than most of its Junior Legion opponents, playing all 14- and 15-year-olds.

New Richmond and Somerset waged probably the most entertaining game of the tournament on Friday night, with Somerset winning 6-5. Somerset scored once in each of the first four innings to take a 4-0 lead. New Richmond surged back to take the lead with five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Nick Lubow delivered the big hit of the rally, a two-run double. Norris Patraw and Austin Anderson executed a double steal to get the go-ahead run home.

Somerset came back with two runs in the sixth inning to win the game.

Elliott Smallidge pitched the first four innings for New Richmond, with Caleb Manecke and Brady Gaspord covering the final three innings.

Big innings were New Richmond's downfall in the rest of the tournament. New Richmond and River Falls were close until several New Richmond errors led to a five-run sixth inning that locked up River Falls' 13-7 win.

New Richmond led Altoona 8-3 after five innings, but five errors in the sixth inning were the main ingredients in an 11-run Altoona rally. Altoona won the game 14-9.

New Richmond lost to Ellsworth 14-3. New Richmond coach Arron Manecke said it was "a case of Ellsworth being a much older and mature team."

New Richmond's offense was solid all weekend, getting between eight and 12 hits in each game. Gaspord led the team by going 7-13 for the weekend. Drake Durham was 5-13 at the plate and Liam Mehls produced a pair of doubles.

Last Tuesday the New Richmond Junior team swept a pair of games at Barron. Elliot Smallidge pitched a no-hitter in the first game, needing 63 pitches to win the 4-0 masterpiece. Gaspord and Nathan Mortinson both went 2-3 at the plate in that win.

New Richmond won the second game 7-6. Mortinson and Dylan Dowd split the pitching. Smallidge completed his big day by providing the decisive hit in the second game. His two-run double in the fifth inning provided the winning margin.

New Richmond split a double-header at Spring Valley last Thursday. New Richmond won the opener 14-1, spraying out 13 hits in the win. Hausman, Manecke, Dowd, Gaspord, Lubow and Anderson each produced two hits. Manecke was the winning pitcher.

Spring Valley won the second game 4-1, limiting New Richmond to five hits.

Somerset looked good against the strong competition in the tournament. After the win over New Richmond on Friday, Somerset crushed Altoona in the second round of the tournament before losing to River Falls and Ellsworth.

Somerset improved to 10-0 in the HeartLake League by sweeping double-headers against Osceola and Barron last week. All four wins were close games. The sweep at Osceola came on 3-1 and 1-0 scores. Thursday's home wins over Barron came on scores of 8-6 and 8-7.

In the opening game against Osceola, Andy Peters threw a three-hitter. Jake Mantalica, Jake Kelcher and David Richard knocked in the runs.

Zack Waalen pitched a two-hitter to get the shutout in the second game. He also scored the only run. Waalen led off the sixth inning with a single and Jordan Langness bunted him to second base. Osceola couldn't handle a ball hit by Mantalica, giving Waalen time to score from second base.

Senior Legion

New Richmond also has one of the youngest Senior Legion rosters in the area. By playing a schedule filled with Division 1 opponents, the team is getting the strongest challenges possible during the summer.

"We might take some licks but our kids are getting valuable experience," said New Richmond coach Chad Fehrman. "I've been pretty darned impressed with how the kids are playing."

The challenging schedule included two games against West St. Paul last Tuesday. The further New Richmond got into the double-header, the more competitive the team became. They lost the opening game 8-0, but put up a good fight in losing the second game 8-5. Most of the players on the West St. Paul team play at Henry Sibley High School, which is coached by Fehrman's uncle.

The offense looked good in the second game. Jeremy Leavens and Drew Durham drove home runs in the third inning. Durham singled home another run in the seventh inning. That was followed by a two-run triple from Connor Hollern.

Fehrman was able to work in pitchers from the Junior Legion for parts of both of these games, saying he was pleased with how the young hurlers handled the assignments.

The previous week New Richmond lost games to Eau Claire and Menomonie. The Tigers received solid pitching and hit well at times, but their defense let them down in the losses. They lost to Eau Claire 7-3 and Menomonie 11-2. Justin Johnson started on the mound against Eau Claire and Zac Parfitt got the call against Menomonie.

The Senior Legion team returns to action this Saturday, hosting Eau Claire at 4 p.m. at the New Richmond High School field. New Richmond will host Altoona next Monday at 6:30 p.m. and Hudson next Tuesday at 6 p.m.

The only action for the Junior Legion teams this week is the HeartLake All-Star Game this Thursday at 6 p.m. at Osceola's Oakey Park.

New Richmond and Somerset will clash next Tuesday in HeartLake action, playing at Somerset's Larry Forrest Park.

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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