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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With a lineup that is half juniors and half sophomores, the New Richmond varsity baseball team wasn't necessarily viewed as a contender for the Middle Border Conference title at the start of the season. The Tigers had proven that they are certainly ready to be a contending team. They started this week tied for the MBC lead, with an 8-2 record. Prescott has an identical conference mark. New Richmond and Prescott were scheduled to play on Tuesday. The Tigers play at Somerset on Friday, where the Spartans pitching will provide a good test for them.
New Richmond softball coach Becky Ahlbrecht couldn't yell. So assistant coach Kevin Lagerstrom did. The Tigers had fallen behind Somerset 2-1 in the fourth inning of Monday's Middle Border Conference game. Lagerstrom then stepped into the Tiger dugout. Lagerstrom is usually soft-spoken. He felt compelled to bark at the Tigers, asking if the girls sincerely wanted to win Monday's game. The players answered with their actions and those actions spoke volumes. The Tigers crushed the ball, scoring 15 runs in the fifth inning.
As one of the smaller schools in the New Richmond Relays, the Somerset track teams have rarely considered themselves as contenders for the team championship in this meet. This year, the Spartan girls knew they could be a contender for the title. And they came through with an outstanding team performance that earned them the 2009 New Richmond Relays championship by one point over Hudson. Where the Spartans were good, they weren't just good. They were spectacular.
For most of this season the Somerset softball team has played competitive ball, staying right with most of the best teams in the Middle Border Conference. The lack of offensive production is beginning to wear on the Spartans. They lost five games over the past week. In each of those five losses, the Spartans weren't able to score more than three runs. "We're not going to win games scoring three runs," said first year Spartan coach Carrie Kjellberg.
Chalk up another championship for the New Richmond boys track team. The Tigers went to Ellsworth on Friday and captured the championship in the 2009 Ellsworth Invitational. This one was not even close. The Tigers finished the meet with 169 points. Ellsworth and Osceola tied for second place with 102 points each. New Richmond's girls took third place in their half of the meet. Ellsworth took the girls title with 144 points, four points ahead of Osceola. New Richmond was third with 115 points. This meet was a good indicator for the Middle Border Conference Meet on May 19 at Amery.
New Richmond's streak of Middle Border Conference softball championships is in serious jeopardy. The Tigers moved into a share of the MBC lead last Tuesday, when they won at Amery 9-7. This was Amery's first conference loss, leaving New Richmond, Amery and Prescott in a three-way tie for the MBC lead. It has been all downhill for the Tigers since Tuesday's win at Amery. On Thursday the Tigers were upset at Osceola, 4-1.
The Somerset girls track team produced one of the most dominating performances of the season in their home invitational last Friday. The Spartan girls rolled up 227 points in winning the championship in the six-team meet. Second place Elmwood-Plum City finished the meet with 80 points. The overwhelming domination by the Spartans was truly reflected in the event championships. Of the 17 girls events in the meet, the Spartans were champions in 14 of them. The Spartans were competing against teams from the Dunn-St. Croix Conference.
The New Richmond baseball team played like a team that belongs at the top of the Middle Border Conference on Monday. Led by smart, steady pitching from junior Mike Jansen, the Tigers beat Osceola on Monday, 8-2. After Monday's win the Tigers stand alone at the top of the MBC standings with one loss. Prescott has two conference losses and Baldwin-Woodville has three losses in conference play. Jansen threw a four-hitter in Monday's game, striking out eight. He held firm control of the game, other than a brief stretch in the third inning.
The tug of war for the Middle Border Conference boys golf leadership currently stands at a draw between New Richmond and Osceola. The Tigers and Chieftains both have 41 points in the MBC golf standings after the Chieftains edged the Tigers by four strokes in an MBC quad match at Amery on Monday. Osceola won Monday's quad meet with a 159 score. New Richmond finished at 163, followed by Somerset at 170 and Amery at 183. The MBC schedule is set up so the same teams face each other in quad matches.
The Somerset baseball team is eternally grateful that last week is over. After being held scoreless in 23 innings last week, the Spartans snapped that barren offensive streak in their first inning this week. After scoring four runs in the first inning against Amery on Monday, the Spartans needed some late heroics (and a little luck) to beat Amery, 5-4. The win raises the Spartans' record to 2-4 in Middle Border Conference games this season. Spartan coach Brandon Kadlec shuffled the team's batting order and it paid quick dividends in Monday's game. Zach Warren and Sean Conrad got on base.