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Hellacious schedule sets back New Richmond baseball team

New Richmond senior Jeremy Leavens tries to tag River Falls’ Kyle Duex as Duex advanced on a passed ball in last Tuesday’s game at River Falls.

The New Richmond baseball team was stinging after an absolutely brutal schedule for the opening week of the season.

And in the compacted schedule for spring sports, there’s no time for the Tigers to lick their wounds.

The Tigers played four non-conference games against top Big Rivers opponents last week. Their fifth game was against Ellsworth, the defending Middle Border Conference champion and the Division 2 state tournament entrant from this WIAA sectional each of the past two years.

Somewhat predictably, the Tigers went 0-5 in those games. The Tigers had to use nine pitchers in their opening double-header at the Woodlands artificial turf complex in Mauston last Monday. The Tigers then got spanked by River Falls 13-2 a day later.

The Tigers did bounce back admirably when they faced Ellsworth on Thursday. The Tigers twice had two-run leads in the game, but they couldn’t finish off the Panthers, losing in the seventh inning, 6-5. The nightmarish opening week of games ended when the Tigers were one-hit by Hudson on Friday, losing 10-0.

The game that had the biggest consequences from last week was the loss to Ellsworth. The Tigers lost an early game to Ellsworth last season and spent the season chasing the Panthers, falling one game short of winning a share of the MBC title. The Tigers hope they can change that scenario after giving Ellsworth an early leg up in the conference race.

The first inning gave the Tigers hope, as they scored twice. Cole Peterson started the rally with a single and he scored on Jeremy Leavens’ double to the rightfield gap. Josh Kizer followed with another double to score Leavens.

Ellsworth scored once in the third and twice in the fourth, but the Tigers rallied to take another two-run lead in the fifth inning. The Tigers loaded the bases on hits from Peterson and Leavens and a walk to Kizer. Drake Durham then drove home all three runs with a double.

Durham got the starting pitching assignment against Ellsworth, giving up two earned runs in four innings. Hayden Nelson took the loss, working the final two innings, surrendering one earned run. Three of Ellsworth’s six runs were unearned. The Tiger defense struggled throughout last week and it proved most costly in this game.

The Tigers couldn’t get anything working on Friday at Hudson. Their only hit was a flared single to rightfield by Leavens in the fourth inning. Tiger starting pitcher Cam Hausman faced 11 batters in the first inning, giving up six runs.

Coach Chad Fehrman said the lone bright spot to the game was some effective relief pitching done by junior Noah Berger after Hausman left the game.

The loss at River Falls last Tuesday was also marked by a rough pitching start, with Brady Gaspord giving up 10 runs in the first two innings.

The coaching staff was in full scale damage control following the difficult week, reminding the team they’d played just one of 14 conference games.

“Our season isn’t defined in the first week,” Fehrman said. “Now we have to get better from here.”

The Tigers immediately face another pivotal MBC game this Thursday when they play at Prescott. The Tigers and Cards tied for second place in the conference last season. The Tigers will be in action on Saturday, playing an 11 a.m., game at Menomonie. The next scheduled home game for the Tigers arrives next Tuesday, when Amery is slated to visit.

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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