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 golfers should have known it was coming. After one of the mildest springs on record, the first golf meet of the 2012 spring brought horrific conditions that challenged the heartiest souls at the Hudson Invitational on Monday. New Richmond, Somerset and St. Croix Central played in the traditional season opener at Troy Burne Golf Club. This was the first year that the invitational was divided into two divisions. New Richmond placed eighth among the 12 teams in the large school division. This is one of the least experienced varsity lineups New Richmond has fielded in many years.
The timing of spring break in New Richmond was not helpful for the Tiger girls soccer team. With several of their leading scorers out of town for spring break, the Tigers have struggled in the offensive half of the field. After being shutout in their first four games of the season, the Tigers got their first goal last Thursday in a 1-1 tie against Baldwin-Woodville. The tie leaves the Tigers with a 0-2-1 record in Middle Border Conference games. Two days before the tie, the Tigers put up a spirited battle against defending MBC champion Hayward, but lost 1-0.
The lack of varsity experience on the 2012 New Richmond boys tennis team showed immediately and quite clearly in the Tigers' opening weekend of matches. The Tigers opened their season with a home match against Menomonie last Thursday. The Tigers won the top three flights of singles, where they had experienced players returning, but couldn't win any other flights in a 4-3 loss to the Mustangs. On Saturday the Tigers played in a tournament at Eau Claire Memorial. In most years the competition in this tournament is pretty steep for the Tigers.
After scoring 35 runs on the first day of the season, the Somerset baseball team had significantly more trouble scoring runs in its two games last week. The Spartans got roughed up by Grantsburg in a non-conference game last Tuesday, 18-3. The Spartans went to Osceola last Thursday and lost their Middle Border Conference opener 5-0. In the opening games of the season the Spartans swept a double-header from Plum City, 11-0 and 24-0. The competition was much steeper last week. Somerset coach Brandon Kadlec said injuries and illness have decimated the Spartans.
This is new territory for the Somerset softball team. After going through several coaching changes in recent years, the Spartans have found stability under coach Cory Lindenberg, who is in his second year leading the team. The Spartans looked like a stable, mature team in winning their 2012 season opener at Osceola last Thursday, 6-1. At nearly every position the Spartans have a player with varsity experience.
Rebuilding the team's defense wasn't something the Somerset girls soccer coaches expected to be doing two weeks into the 2012 season. With several of the team's most experienced players out of the lineup, the Spartans were busy making changes and trying to learn new positions. That was the main reason the Spartans lost 7-0 at Superior last Thursday, dropping their season record to 0-4. The Spartans had their best chance for a win last Tuesday when they were visited by the Baldwin-Woodville girls. The Spartans scored 10 minutes into the game after starting the game with great intensity.
Pitching appears to be in good hands for the St. Croix Central baseball team. The next tasks for the Panthers are to get their offense up to a competitive level and get the defense to settle down and make the needed plays. The Panthers saw their record drop to 0-3 last week after losses to Amery and Boyceville. Amery beat the Panthers 9-1 on Tuesday, while Boyceville dropped a 13-1 loss on the Panthers in their Dunn-St. Croix Conference opener. The 9-1 score in Tuesday's game is misleading. The Panthers trailed 2-1 after five innings. Amery broke the game open with a seven-run sixth inning.
Boys and girls track teams generally practice together, so it serves the track program well when both teams are competing at a high level. That is the case for the Somerset track teams, which both enjoyed a high level of success in their meets last week. At the St. Croix Central Invitational last Thursday, the Spartans were champions in both halves of the 12-team meet.
The track at St. Croix Central was swirling with activity last Thursday as 12 teams anxiously took advantage of the spring weather to take part in one of the first outdoor track meets in the area this season. The meet was greeted especially warmly by the Central athletes. While many of the teams in Thursday's meet had already competed in indoor events, Central is one of the few area teams that refrains from competing indoors. The Panthers performed successfully in both halves of the meet.
The names change through the years in the St. Croix Central softball program, but the success keeps coming. The Panthers started the 2012 season with a pair of sharp wins last week, beating Prescott and River Falls. Central has gone 40-5 in its Dunn-St. Croix Conference games the past three years. The Panthers had several significant losses due to graduation last year, especially pitcher Nikki Brooks. But the team has come back looking just as strongly this season. Junior Kelly Harrington has taken over as Central's pitcher and she has made a smooth transition to the varsity level.