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New Richmond baseball team opens season at Metrodome

New Richmond High School baseball players took a moment to snap a photo inside the Metrodome during their trip to the Twin Cities last Tuesday.

The words "play ball" were music to the ears of the New Richmond High School baseball players last Tuesday.

While the Tigers haven't been able to hold a complete practice outdoors yet because of the snow that has remained on the ground, they were able to play seven innings of a game against Menomonie last Tuesday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

The game finished in a 2-2 tie when the allotted time for the contest ran out, but the opportunity to play was the key feature this evening.

While the Tigers haven't been able to get outdoors extensively, they have been able to get most of their practice routine done daily. The high school gym is large enough to run an almost full-scale infield practice. The Tigers have a batting cage in the gym that provides each player sufficient swings. The pitchers have also been able to get in their work. The coaches have the pitchers up to 45 pitches per bullpen session to have their arms ready for when games begin.

Coach Chad Fehrman said the team has worked to keep their practices competitive by holding the practices in short phases that keep the pace closer to the speed of game action.

The coaches were pleased that the Tigers carried that pace into Tuesday's game. They didn't make an error in the field and they were able to outhit Menomonie 8-3.

The Tigers scored both their runs in the third inning. Jeremy Leavens doubled to start the rally. He scored on a triple from Blake Higgins. Higgins scored on Josh Kizer's sacrifice fly.

Five pitchers got the chance to work against Menomonie. Zac Parfitt earned the start, followed by Noah Berger, Kyle Shilts, Elliott Smallidge and Josh Manske.

Fehrman said there's good depth in the pitching staff, with several sophomores and freshmen who are also pushing for playing time.

"Throwing strikes will be the key," Fehrman said. The only drawback to the Tigers' performance at the Metrodome was eight walks issued by the pitchers.

Fehrman said the defense should help the pitching staff. He said the outfield defense will be an asset, because Higgins, Shilts, Connor Hollern and Keilan Mehls all have excellent range.

Getting the schedule rolling could be a challenge for the Tigers. The Tigers are scheduled to play at Prescott on Friday, but this week's predicted rain could wash out that appointment.

The Tigers are also scheduled to play a double-header on Saturday. Fehrman said he isn't holding out much hope that Saturday's games will be played, because the New Richmond and Chippewa Falls fields are both far too damp to play currently.

The Tigers are scheduled to begin their Middle Border Conference schedule next Tuesday with a home game against Somerset.