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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When the softball teams from Somerset and Durand meet again this Thursday in the opener of WIAA Division 3 playoffs, there will be no secrets. That's because these two teams have played 25 innings worth of softball against each other last week. Last week began with the Spartans and Panthers playing a 15-inning marathon in Durand. The Panthers won that game 6-5. Fast forward to Friday. These teams met again, this time on Somerset's turf. Again, the game stretched into extra innings. This time, it was the Spartans who got to experience the long-earned joy of winning.
After years of running up against perennial state powerhouse Grantsburg in the softball regional tournaments, the WIAA has redrawn the districts this year, and St. Croix Central has benefited. Central has stayed south in this year's Division 3 bracketing. The only way the Panthers and Grantsburg could meet this year would be in the sectional tournaments. With Grantsburg no longer blocking their way, the Panthers earned the top seed in the WIAA Division 3 regional tournament bracket last week.
The New Richmond Millers are riding an emotional high and they aren't afraid to show it. The pumped up Millers got into a benches-clearing situation in their game with the Prescott Pirates on Friday. Keep in mind, Prescott has used the Millers as its personal ragdoll for more than a decade. This is a different Millers team. The Millers were able to control their emotions after the heated exchange and pulled ahead of the Pirates for a 6-4 win. This win raises the Millers' record in the St.
A 9-4 finish in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference has to be considered a successful season for the St. Croix Central baseball team. Now the Panthers hope to carry that success into the WIAA post-season. The Panthers wrapped up their D-SC schedule last Thursday with a 6-2 win over Colfax. The Panthers ended up third in the large school division of the conference behind Elk Mound and Boyceville. After a nine-error fiasco last Monday, the Panthers got back to the top level defense that has been their bread and butter this season. The Panthers committed just one error in Thursday's win at Colfax.
New Richmond's top two doubles teams have played their way into the WIAA Division 1 sectional tournament using some dramatic play to advance. They will play in the WIAA Division 1 Marshfield Sectional Tournament, which is scheduled to be played this Wednesday. Advancing are the one doubles team of Jorden Aufderhar and Justice Harvieux and the two doubles team of Mike Stoffel and Charlie Kleiner.
The New Richmond baseball team has won a share of the Middle Border Conference title. And the Tigers aren't done yet. On Thursday the Tigers will play at home against Osceola. A win in Thursday's game would give the Tigers the outright 2011 MBC championship. Tiger coach Chad Fehrman said a solo conference title is the team's goal. "They said they did that last year," referring to last year's split title with Ellsworth. "They don't want that again." The Tigers locked up a share of the conference title on Monday night by winning two games against Amery.
The New Richmond Millers had their swatters ready on Sunday. Playing in one of the first seasonable days of the spring, the Millers swatted the ball all over Citizens Field on Sunday, beating the Hager City Skeeters 15-3. The win raises the Millers' record to 2-0 in the St. Croix Valley League this season. The Millers' game against Lake Elmo that was scheduled for Saturday was rained out and it is unlikely to be made up. Sunday's game saw the Millers score early and often in support of Matt Peterson's pitching. The Skeeters scored twice off Peterson in the top of the first inning.
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.