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American Legion baseball teams prep for playoffs

Nathan Mortenson delivers a pitch for the New Richmond Junior Legion team during last Tuesday's double-header in Somerset.1 / 2
Nathan Mortenson delivers a pitch for the New Richmond Junior Legion team during last Tuesday's double-header in Somerset.2 / 2

The playoffs are the next step for the local American Legion baseball teams.

The New Richmond Legion teams are focusing on getting into their respective state tournaments while the Somerset team is hoping to win the HeartLake League championship tournament.

The New Richmond Senior Legion concluded its regular season last Thursday with a 14-4 loss to Hudson. New Richmond will begin its Legion tournament play next Wednesday. New Richmond and Menomonie will be the only teams in this Legion bracket, so they will play a best-of-three tournament. The winner advances to the state tournament. Those games will be played at Menomonie's Wakenda Park. Times have not yet been decided upon for the games.

New Richmond coach Chad Fehrman said each Legion game highlights areas where his team is improving and exposes areas where the team needs to improve. He said the loss to Hudson further showed the team is coming up with a strong defensive outfield to match the defense that has been played by the infielders this season. Fehrman said Kyle Shilts has showed great range in the outfield and Connor Hollern has improved his defensive skills dramatically during the summer.

The area that was in glaring need of improvement in the loss to Hudson was the pitchers' inability to consistently find the strike zone. Three New Richmond pitchers all showed they have the pitching repertoire to be successful at the next level, but they need to control their pitches better. Walks and pitches left over the heart of the plate gave Hudson plenty of scoring chances.

New Richmond did score twice in the first inning, when Jeremy Leavens, Hayden Nelson and Josh Kizer all singled. Shilts scored a run in the fourth inning and Kizer scored in the fifth for the final New Richmond run.

The New Richmond Junior Legion team begins its playoffs this Wednesday in Chippewa Falls. If they continue to win, they could also play games on Thursday and Friday.

The Junior Legion was scheduled to complete its regular season on Tuesday. The schedule was busy last week, with a pair of double-headers. They split two games at St. Croix Falls last Thursday after losing two games to Somerset last Tuesday. New Richmond took the opener at SCF in a thriller, 3-2. Cameron Hausman pitched the first five innings, leaving the game with the score still 0-0. New Richmond scored its three runs in the sixth inning. Drake Durham doubled home Derek Dowd for the first run of the game. Durham and Hausman scored on wild pitches for the other New Richmond runs.

In the second game, New Richmond wasn't competitive, losing 14-4.

That followed the pattern of last Tuesday's games, when New Richmond played much better in the first of the two games.

New Richmond lost the opening game at Somerset 6-4. Nathan Mortenson got a rare pitching opportunity and made the most of it.

"He is on our post-season roster, and will be needed to throw, so we needed to give him some work. He did OK considering he was also working to fix some mechanical flaws in his delivery," said New Richmond coach Arron Manecke.

New Richmond faced Somerset's top pitcher and went in with the goal of attacking his fastball early in counts. That resulted in eight hits and four runs in the first three innings. New Richmond sent nine batters to the plate in a three-run second inning. Austin Anderson, CJ Kenney and Caleb Manecke all singled home runs in that rally. Kevin Kern singled home Brady Gaspord during the fourth inning.

Somerset controlled the second game of the night, beating New Richmond 8-0.

Somerset Legion

The Somerset Junior Legion team continued its unbeaten HeartLake League season by sweeping games from New Richmond and Amery last week.

Somerset is one of three teams that will be in the HeartLake League championship tournament this Thursday. Cumberland will also be in the tournament, with Barron and Grantsburg battling for the third spot. The location of the tournament and seeding will be decided after this Tuesday's final round of league play.

Somerset received one of its best battles in league play last Thursday at Amery, winning 4-3 and 4-2. In the opener Somerset scored all four of its runs in the fourth inning. David Richard delivered his biggest hit of the season, a bases-loaded triple, to bring home the final three runs in that rally.

Tyler Lueck and Zack Waalen combined to pitch the first game. Andy Peters pitched the complete game in the second contst, with a season-high 11 strikeouts.

Jordan Langness, Jake Mantalica and Ben Hammer drove home runs in the second game.

Mantalica and Waalen led the offense in Somerset's 6-4 homefield win in the opening game against New Richmond last Tuesday. Mantalica delivered two hits, including a triple. Waalen produced a two-run single in the second inning.

Waalen pitched the opener. Mick Robida worked the first three innings to get the win in the second game. Somerset took care of that outcome quickly, scoring seven runs in the second inning of its 8-0 win.