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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After the graduation of their leading scorers from last season, there were some offensive growing pains expected for the Somerset girls soccer team this season. Those pains showed up in the Spartans' four games that began the season over the past week. The Spartans earned one win in those four games, ringing up five goals in a win over Baldwin-Woodville. The other three games were against more advanced opponents and the Spartans were held scoreless in those three losses. The Spartans now have eight days between games, with their next game at Barron next Tuesday.
The Hudson True Team track meet is an excellent test for the Somerset track teams every year. The Spartans are the smallest school to compete in the meet, competing against teams like Hudson, Eau Claire North and Hill-Murray. The Spartans don't go into the meet with the mindset of winning any team titles. They do enter the meet looking to test themselves to see how they stack up in each event. The Spartan boys placed sixth among the eight teams in the meet and Somerset's girls placed seventh.
One big inning was the heart of the issue for the Somerset softball team in three losses in Middle Border Conference games over the past week. The Spartans lost to Prescott, Ellsworth and New Richmond in that span. This Thursday the Spartans will try to right the ship in a home game against Amery. The Spartans will also be at home next Tuesday, when MBC leader Baldwin-Woodville visits. On Monday the Spartans suffered a 6-4 loss at New Richmond. New Richmond took the lead with a five-run fifth inning. The Spartans didn't give up. They battled back to score three runs in the sixth inning.
With all of the Dunn-St. Croix Conference teams on hand, the St. Croix Central track teams put together impressive performances in a track meet at Elk Mound last Thursday. The Panther boys took the title among the nine teams competing, while the Central girls took second place. It's early in the season and the conditions at the meet presented numerous limitations, so it's hard to gauge whether any team was running their best lineup. Still, these finishes let the Panthers know they can compete with the best teams in the conference.
Any issues that showed themselves in the first two non-conference games were ironed out by the time the St. Croix Central softball team reached its Dunn-St. Croix Conference schedule. The Panthers began D-SC play last Tuesday with an 8-2 win at Mondovi. The Panthers added another road win Monday, taking down Spring Valley-Plum City 9-2. Last Friday's game with Elk Mound was rained out. That game will be made up as part of a double-header at Elk Mound on May 6. In both of their D-SC games, the Panthers had all the needed elements, pitching, hitting and defense.
Sam Lofquist has signed a pro hockey contract with the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League. The Aeros are the primary farm club for the Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League. Lofquist's contract is a 25-game amateur tryout contract (ATO). Lofquist made his debut with the Aeros on Sunday, notching one assist. The Aeros defeated the Oklahoma City Blades 6-3 in Sunday's game. The Aeros are now in the AHL playoffs, in a series against the Peoria Rivermen. Lofquist, a Somerset native, has spent the last two seasons playing for the Guelph Storm of the OHL.
Tiger coach Chad Fehrman knows how rare this opportunity is. The second-year Tiger varsity baseball coach had a senior filling every position on the field in the team's season opening 14-4 win at Baldwin-Woodville last Thursday. "No matter how long I coach, I don't think I'll ever have that again," Fehrman said of the senior-stacked 2011 lineup. The Tigers gave every indication they were ready to put together a strong season, impressive in itself considering they'd only practiced outdoors once before Thursday's game.
Learning on the fly could be the motto for the New Richmond girls softball team this season. The Tigers are extremely young this season, with three seniors in the starting lineup. Combine that with the fact that the Tigers were able to hold three outdoor practices before their first games and you have circumstances that make this a challenging start for the Tigers. In their opening games of the season, the Tigers were defeated by Baldwin-Woodville and Hudson last week. The Tigers opened the season by getting exploited by Baldwin-Woodville last Thursday, 17-2.
The Somerset softball team has spent several years building toward this season. After being one of the youngest teams in the Middle Border Conference two years ago and still one of the younger teams last year, the Spartans are all grown up now. Cory Lindenberg is the new Somerset coach and he plans to put that experience to good use. That showed when the Spartans won their season opener last Friday, 6-3 over St. Croix Central. The Spartan lineup is nearly all seniors and juniors.
After graduating perhaps the most successful class of softball players thus far at St. Croix Central in 2010, this year's Panthers have a bit of a rebuilding job to do. The Panthers lost their first two games of the 2011 season last week. The first game as an 11-9 setback against River Falls on Thursday. The following night the Panthers lost at Somerset 6-3. The two losses match the entire loss total from last season for the Panthers. Central coach Jim Anderson wasn't overly concerned about the two losses.