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Seven-run inning ends New Richmond varsity baseball season

The scenario played out much as it did all season for the New Richmond varsity baseball team.

The Tigers played well for much of the game in their WIAA Division 1 playoff opener at Eau Claire Memorial last Tuesday. But when things went bad for the Tigers this season, it usually happened in a hurry. That was the case in the fourth inning, when Memorial broke open a 2-2 game by scoring seven earned runs. The Old Abes went on to an 11-3 victory.

Memorial then upset Eau Claire North in the regional final last Thursday, 12-4, to qualify for this week’s sectional tournament.

The Tigers finished the season with an 8-17 record. The Tigers ran hot and cold this season. Bad things happened in bunches for the Tigers, whether it was errors, walks or baserunning mistakes. But the most glaring problem for the Tigers was the team’s inability to produce with runners in scoring position.

“We had moments of brilliance,” Tiger coach Chad Fehrman said in assessing the season. “And we’d have moments where you didn’t know whether you were foot or horseback.”

The loss at Eau Claire’s Carson Park was typical of the Tigers’ season. The Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the second inning and the score was knotted at 2-2 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning. One play seemed to shake the Tigers’ confidence all season. This time it was an error while trying to get an out on a sacrifice bunt. If the Tigers had gotten the out on that play, Memorial wouldn’t have scored at all in the fourth inning. Instead, the mistakes compounded and Memorial scored seven runs.

“We played pretty darn well for the first three innings,” Fehrman said.

The Tigers gave every indication they could compete with the Old Abes in the early innings. Pitcher Drake Durham led off the second inning by reaching on an error. They loaded the bases on a single from Hayden Nelson and a walk to Josh Geigle. Austin Juhl then put down a perfectly placed safety squeeze bunt down the first base line to score Durham. Nelson scored moments later on a wild pitch.

Even after Memorial’s big inning, the Tigers bounced back with a run in the fifth inning. Caleb Manecke and Jeremy Leavens started the inning with singles. A double play erased Leavens, but Manecke was able to score later on a wild pitch.

Manecke and Juhl led the Tigers with two hits each. Durham pitched the first 3.2 innings, with Noah Berger handling the final 2.1 innings.

The Tigers graduate four seniors in Leavens, Nelson, Josh Kizer and Keilan Mehls. All four played key roles for the team.

The focus now turns to next season and making sure that the problems that plagued the team this season don’t happen again.

“Our juniors need to step up and lead,” Fehrman said as the first priority for next season. “In order to be successful at Division 1 we have to have commitment. You can’t just turn it on and off.”

Fehrman said some of the on-field priorities will be getting pitchers to throw first-pitch strikes and reducing the number of walks allowed. He’s also looking to get the Tigers to hit the ball with more authority and take better advantage of batter-friendly pitch counts.

The American Legion baseball season starts right away. The New Richmond Legion team will play its first games this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Grantsburg. New Richmond will again be part of the Heart Lake Border Legion League, which includes teams from the Middle Border, Lakeland and Heart O’North Conference schools.

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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