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American Legion baseball teams dealing with schedule conflicts

Bryce Purrington delivers a pitch for St. Croix Central in the opening game of last week's double-header against Baldwin.

Dealing with scheduling conflicts is part of summer sports, where every coach is trying to get as much chance to see their athletes as possible That led to challenges for the local American Legion baseball teams last week, with all three local football teams holding their summer contact days last week.

New Richmond Juniors

With the New Richmond football contact days last week, the New Richmond Junior Legion team had to do some creative roster moves to get a team together for last Tuesday’s game at Bloomer. Five players from the U14 team were called up and they performed quite well. The game ended in a 9-9 tie after eight innings, because both teams ran out of pitchers.

New Richmond coach Chris Riba said the U14 players all handled the step up in competition well. He said the pitchers looked good, including Jens Christensen, Gavin Anderson and Charlie Thibodeau. Christensen was also the team’s leading hitter in the game.

Things didn’t go quite so well for the Juniors on Sunday when they faced the Menomonie Senior Legion team. With the football players just getting back from camp in South Dakota and the hockey players returning from a tournament in Hudson, the New Richmond boys were spent. It showed in a 19-1 loss to Menomonie.

The Junior team returns to action Thursday, June 29, hosting Unity. They will play in a tournament at Superior over the weekend.

New Richmond Seniors

The Senior team also had to deal with football conflicts, only having three varsity players for both games last week. Last Tuesday, the Senior team lost to Altoona, 5-4, in 10 innings. John Earley pitched six excellent innings, before Altoona tied the game against him in the seventh inning. Ryan Kling pitched well in relief before Altoona scored the deciding run in the tenth inning.

Jake Jirik had a two run single in the sixth inning to put New Richmond ahead 4-2. Brandon Gaspord had an RBI single earlier in that inning. Jirik and Hayden Bradbury led New Richmond with two hits.

On Wednesday, New Richmond played at River Falls. After playing stellar defense against Altoona, the defense struggled at River Falls. River Falls won 9-1, with only one of the River Falls runs being earned.

New Richmond’s only run came in the sixth inning when Earley doubled home Jirik.

Thibodeau was also called up from the U14 team to play with the Seniors in this game. New Richmond coach Rick Jirik said Thibodeau handled the promotion well.

“His at-bats were great. I like his competitiveness. He plays fearlessly,” Jirik said.

New Richmond will be playing at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 28 at Hudson.

Somerset

The Somerset Junior Legion team got one game in last week, but it was a gem. Functioning well in all aspects of the game, Somerset defeated Prescott 8-1 on Tuesday, June 20. Somerset’s game slated for Thursday was cancelled due to rain.

Brett Vetterkind was at the top of his game, pitching the complete game for Somerset. The only run he allowed was unearned.

The Spartans manufactured runs all night, doing a good job of getting runners into scoring position and finding ways to get them home. AJ Beasley led Somerset with two hits and Peter Lepper came through with a timely RBI double. The win raises Somerset’s record to 6-2 for the summer.

Somerset will be in action this Thursday, playing at Rice Lake. Somerset will then get a week off for the holiday before hosting Bloomer on July 6.

St. Croix Central

The St. Croix Central Legion Post 432 team had a rough first inning in last Tuesday’s double-header, but things got much better the rest of the night during the two games against Baldwin. Central gave up four runs in the top of the first inning to Baldwin. Baldwin held on from there to win the opening game 7-4. The Central squad earned its first win of the summer in the second game, winning 6-2.

Central broke open the second game by scoring four runs in the fourth inning. Central loaded the bases on walks to Bryce Purrington and Collin Burns, sandwiched around a single by Josh Woodington. Purrington scored on a wild pitch to break the 2-2 tie. Woodington scored on Trevor Kopacz’s grounder. Burns and Kopacz would later score on wild pitches.

Justin Arthur led Central with two hits in the game. Burns and Josh Holme both collected doubles, with Holme’s being a one-hopper off the outfield fence. Sage Casey pitched three innings and Zach Holme two innings in the win, with Casey getting credit for the win.

In the opening game, Baldwin tagged Purrington for four runs in the first inning before he settled in. Central tried battling back, scoring four runs in the fifth inning to put some heat on their opponents. All four runs scored with two outs, on three walks and an RBI single by Kopacz.

Many of the Central players were also in the football contact days, which was being held on the field adjacent to Mike Fern Field. The football players went right from the practice field to the dugout to change into their baseball gear for the game.

Central coach Tom Sauve said he was impressed with the pitching in both games. He said all the players are hungry, showing they want to be in the mix for playing time on the varsity next spring.

Central resumes its schedule on Thursday with a game at Barron. Then there’s a week off before Central hosts New Richmond on Thursday, July 6.

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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