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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The Somerset baseball team is hoping for a long playoff run following a regular season that didn't go quite the way the Spartans had planned. The Spartans were eliminated from contention for the 2011 Middle Border Conference championship on Monday when New Richmond swept two games from Amery. The Spartans were winners on Monday, topping Baldwin-Woodville 9-0. Monday's win leaves the Spartans with an 8-4 record in conference play. The Spartans will finish conference play this Thursday with a double-header at Durand. The Spartans then get busy with non-conference games.
Because there have been so many postponements and few teams have played the same number of games, it's difficult to gauge which teams have the best chance of winning the Middle Border Conference girls soccer title. Some teams have played less than half of their 16 conference games. Others, like Osceola, which has played 13 MBC games, are nearly done with their schedule. There are six teams that still have a chance of winning the MBC title. New Richmond is one of those six. The Tigers started this week with a 8-4 conference record.
If you are a fan of seeing runs scored, there was high entertainment value in the New Richmond softball games of the past week. Sometimes it was the Tigers that were posting big numbers, sometimes it was their opponent, and in Monday's case, it was both teams. The Tigers nearly earned their third win of the season on Monday. They charged back from 6-1 and 11-4 deficits before losing to Osceola 12-11. Both teams scored once in the first inning.
The last hope to get a share of the 2011 Dunn-St. Croix Conference softball championship slipped through the gloves of the St. Croix Central softball team last Friday. The Panthers needed a win over Pepin to keep alive their hopes of winning the D-SC title for the third straight season. Unfortunately, the Panthers struggled defensively, committing five errors in a 5-0 loss to the Lakers. Central outhit Pepin 9-4 in the game. All five of Pepin's runs were unearned. "We gave them all five runs," said Central coach Jimmy Anderson.
Somerset was only scheduled to play one softball game at Durand on Monday. They ended up playing more than two games worth of softball. Somerset and Durand battled for 15 innings before Durand prevailed, 6-5. Somerset junior pitcher Bethany Starry pitched all 15 innings of the game, firing more than 200 pitches. Starry showed incredible resilience. She gave up two runs in the first and fourth innings. She then threw 10 straight shutout innings before Durand scored twice in the 15th. The Spartans had taken a 5-4 lead in the top of the 15th. Ashley Martell singled and stole second base.
The 2011 New Richmond Relays proved to be an outstanding showcase for the new track facilities at New Richmond High School. The meet also showcased the talents of the seniors on the New Richmond High School boys team. Both NRHS teams took second place to Hudson in this year's Relays. But if there was any group that grabbed the attention of the fans, it was New Richmond's senior boys. Led by Shaun Peper, Cody Taubman and Patrick Hailey, the senior boys had the most talked-about efforts in the meet. Peper led that group.
Going into last Friday's Middle Border Conference baseball action, New Richmond was one of four teams tied for the MBC lead. Hours later, the Tigers stood alone at the top of the conference. New Richmond, Prescott, Somerset and Amery all started Friday's action with two losses in the MBC. The Tigers took care of business on their end, defeating Prescott 6-3.
Last week was the peak invitational week of the season for the Somerset track teams. And the results were everything the Spartans could hope for. The Somerset girls earned the team championship in the Amery Invitational last Tuesday. There is also a combined championship trophy given at the Amery meet every year.
Strong play in the second halves of their games led to an unbeaten week for the New Richmond girls soccer team last week. The Tigers earned wins over Barron and Amery during the week and they tied in their game with Somerset. In Friday's win over Amery, the Tigers had to come back twice to get the 5-3 win. Amery scored on its first shot of Friday's game, splitting the Tigers' middle defenders to set up the goal. The Tigers responded quickly. Freshman Dani Juhl scored her first varsity goal 6:40 into the game.
Based on the scoring chances produced by the Somerset girls soccer team in last Thursday's 0-0 tie with New Richmond, Spartan coach Erin Wilson thinks her team's offense has turned the corner. The first half on Thursday was some of the best soccer the Spartans have played in recent weeks. They controlled the action at midfield, which helped them keep the ball in the offensive zone for extended periods. The Spartans had two extremely close calls on goals in the first half. Junior Laura Wells drove a shot from 20 yards out that struck the crossbar squarely and bounced back into the field.