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Somerset softball takes 5-0 lead before being eliminated

Somerset shortstop Katie Berg gets set to fire a throw to first base during a recent Spartan game.1 / 2
Left-hander Rachel Cloutier has handled nearly all of the Spartans’ softball pitching during her high school career. 2 / 2

Somerset coach Cory Lindenberg said he thought his Spartans matched up well against Altoona, the team’s first round opponent in the WIAA Division 2 regional tournament last Tuesday.

For three innings, the Spartans were the better team. Somerset led 5-0 until Altoona scored six runs in the third and fourth innings. The Railroaders added 10 more runs to win 16-5, eliminating the Spartans from the playoffs and ending their season.

The Spartans started the tournament game by playing some of their best ball. Senior Megan Starry, who has kept her batting average near the .500 level all season, led off the game with a single. She moved to third when Ally Wittstock put down a sacrifice bunt and there was a throwing error on the play. Starry scored on Jocelyn Rivard’s groundout.

In the third inning the Spartans put together a healthy rally. Singles from Laura Smith and Starry started the inning. Rivard then smacked a double that brought home Smith. Racheal Russell followed with a run-scoring single. Abbie Rivard culminated the rally with a two-run single that extended the lead to 5-0.

The complexion of the game pivoted on an umpire’s call. Lindenberg had noticed that Altoona had made an unreported substitution. When the substitute reached base, Lindenberg went to the umpires, protesting the call. It was Lindenberg’s opinion that the batter, who walked, should have been called out. The umpire didn’t agree with Lindenberg’s view and didn’t call the batter out, after a 10-minute discussion. The out would have helped the Spartans end one of Altoona’s early scoring rallies.

The Spartans had eight hits in the game, led by two each from Starry and Jocelyn Rivard.

“The whole game, we were hitting the ball well,” Lindenberg said, saying that sharp defensive plays from the Altoona third baseman and centerfielder took hits away from the Spartans.

The season ends for the Spartans with a 3-11 record.  The season started on a difficult note, losing seniors Maddie Berends and Sydney Branom to injuries. That left Starry and pitcher Rachel Cloutier as the only returning starters for the team.

“They got a lot better from the beginning of the season to the end,” Lindenberg said. “They were playing good, competitive ball at the end of the season.”

A good indication of the Spartans’ improvement came in their final regular season game. They put up an excellent battle against Durand, a team they lost to 10-0 early in the season. This time, the Spartans lost 15-12.

The Spartans rallied from a 10-4 deficit, coming back to tie the game at 12-12. Durand then scored three runs in the seventh inning to win the game.

Tuesday’s game was one of the team’s most complete efforts of the season. Hits from Jocelyn Rivard and Russell set the table for Abbie Rivard, who drove home the Spartans’ first two runs of the game.

Rivard delivered another RBI hit, a double, to start a fifth inning rally after Russell and Cloutier singled. Two more runs scored on passed balls.

The Spartans put together a two-out rally for its huge sixth inning comeback. Wittstock started things with a single and Jocelyn Rivard reached base on an error. Russell was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Cloutier followed with a single to drive home the first run. Abbie Rivard followed with a three-run double, giving her a team record six RBI for the game. Meghan Wolner then lined an RBI double to tie the score at 12-12.

The team loses three seniors in Starry, Wolner and Jocelyn Rivard. Lindenberg said that with the experience the team gained this year, it is in a better position to be a bigger factor in the Middle Border Conference next season.

“The biggest thing we need is getting into the weight room,” Lindenberg said, “so they continued to grow as healthy athletes and healthy human beings.”

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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