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New Richmond softball gives defending MBC champs a battle

New Richmond shortstop Maddie Krumm dives to snare a hard-hit ground ball in last week’s game at River Falls.

The difference between the New Richmond and Baldwin-Woodville softball teams in Monday’s Middle Border Conference clash was the Blackhawks’ ability to connect for hits with runners in scoring position.

Baldwin-Woodville was the WIAA Division 2 state runner-up in 2013 after winning the state title in 2012 and the Blackhawks still have one of the best pitchers in the state in senior flamethrower Abby Klopp. Klopp has already signed a National Letter of Intent to play college softball at Indiana State University. ISU was made nationally famous in the 1970s when Larry Bird drove the Sycamores to national prominence in college basketball.

Klopp was at her best again on Monday, striking out 14 Tigers as the Blackhawks posted an 8-1 win.

The final score wasn’t indicative of the closeness of the game. The score was 3-1 after five innings and the Tigers had their chance to do much more damage after scoring once in the fifth inning.

The fifth inning started with one of the best at-bats you’re likely to see this season. New Richmond senior Sydney Kannel got ahead of Klopp 2-0 in the count. Kannel then fouled off eight pitches before drawing a leadoff walk.

“The team went ballistic. It was an awesome at-bat,” said Tiger coach Emily Dabrowski.

Because the Tigers were striking out so often, Dabrowski called on a number of the Tigers to bunt. Sydney Jones put down a perfect bunt single to load the bases and another bunt got Kannel home with the Tigers’ first run. Klopp then retired the next two Tigers to get out of the jam.

The missed opportunity seemed to take something out of the Tigers. They allowed B-W to score once in the sixth inning and four times in the seventh inning.

Dabrowski said her players recognized that they aren’t far from playing evenly with the defending conference champions.

“They know they have the ability to do some good work. It’ll be great to see when it happens,” Dabrowski said.

The loss dropped the Tigers to 0-2 in Middle Border Conference action. They lost their MBC opener in an 11-inning battle at Durand last Thursday, 2-1.

This game featured two tremendous pitching performances between Kannel and Durand’s Morganne Gruber. They both pitched 10 innings of shutout ball until each team scored in the 11th inning.

Kannel scored the Tigers’ run in the 11th inning. She led off with a single and moved to second base when Lexi Derrick was hit by a pitch. They both moved up on a passed ball. Kannel alertly scored when the catcher’s throw back to Gruber after a pitch was off target.

Kannel rolled her ankle as she scored, but she decided to continue pitching. Durand was able to string together three hits in the bottom of the 11th to generate the winning runs.

The Tigers lost another close call on Friday at River Falls, dropping a 7-6 decision.

River Falls scored three runs in the first inning while the Tigers went without a baserunner in the first three innings.

In the fourth inning, the Tigers were able to get a couple walks to start the inning and both those runners came around to score. Two more walks in the fifth inning added another Tiger run.

The Tigers took the lead with a three-run rally in the sixth inning, with Kate Johnston’s two-run double being the big hit of the rally.

River Falls then scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh as the Tigers saw another win slip away.

“That was really hard on the girls,” Dabrowski said.

The Tigers are hoping to build some momentum as they get into the heart of their conference schedule. They will play at Somerset this Thursday before hosting Ellsworth next Tuesday. (Thursday's game at Somerset has been postponed to April 28).

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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