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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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.
Five of the 10 players in the New Richmond lineup had never played in a varsity match before the Tigers took to the courts in Menomonie last Thursday for the 2011 season opener. That lack of experience didn't bother the Tigers. They showed poise and promise in winning the non-conference match 5-2. Playing in their first official varsity matches were Mike Stoffel, Pat Holland, Nick Bradish, Isaiah Hobbs and Joe Deppe. While the Tigers may be a bit inexperienced, coach Mike Montello is upbeat about the team's prospects this season.
The schedule worked out that the New Richmond girls soccer team faced one of its most important games of the season in the 2011 opener last Thursday. The Tigers hosted Amery, one of their main rivals and one of the top teams in the Middle Border Conference, in their first game last Thursday. The Tigers came away with the win, in their first game under new coach Steve Tesar, beating Amery 1-0. This is the third time since New Richmond became a varsity program that the Tigers were able to beat Amery. The only goal of the game was scored by New Richmond's Amanda Ramsey.
In terms of varsity experience, the St. Croix Central baseball team may be one of the youngest squads around this spring. In their first three games of the season, the Panthers showed they are quick learners. In Central's season opener last Thursday, the Panthers looked overmatched in a 10-4 loss to Elk Mound. The following night the Panthers played at Osceola. There was distinct improvement as the Panthers lost to the Chieftains, 4-3. On Monday the Panthers took the field against Boyceville, facing Ryan Bloom, considered by many as the top returning pitcher in the Dunn-St.
It wasn't the usual cast of characters, but the Somerset baseball team still managed to win its Middle Border Conference opener last Thursday. The Spartans beat Osceola 10-9 in an offense-heavy season opener Thursday. The Spartans didn't have seniors Nick Dvorak, Jared Dettmann or Sean Conrad available for games last week, but other players stepped up. Dvorak is out following surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.