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New Richmond Senior Legion teams reaches regional title game

New Richmond’s Reece Lucas makes a diving attempt to catch a flyball during the Senior Legion tournament played at River Falls last week. 1 / 2
Jake Jirik (15) was the starting pitcher for New Richmond in the opening game of the Senior American Legion tournament in River Falls last week.2 / 2

The New Richmond Senior American Legion baseball team was able to eliminate Superior and Menomonie from last week’s regional tournament, but the New Richmond boys couldn’t overcome the host team from River Falls.

In the double-elimination tournament, New Richmond was beaten twice by River Falls.

The New Richmond Senior team finished the season with an 8-12-1 record.

The Legion tournament was played at First National Bank of River Falls Field. New Richmond faced the host team in the opening game. The game was scoreless through two innings, before River Falls’ bats began to erupt. River Falls scored five times in the third inning, three times in the fourth and twice in the sixth to put away a 10-0 victory.

New Richmond was held to four hits in the game, with Mikah Kier collecting two of them.

New Richmond had to turn right around and face Superior. This time it was New Richmond’s bats that woke up early. New Richmond racked up six runs in the first inning, rolling to a 10-5 victory.

Reece Lucas and Talon Seckora both struck with two-run singles in New Richmond’s big opening inning.

The teams traded runs the rest of the way. Ryan Kling came through with a big two-run single in the second inning, after Superior had scored twice in the top of the inning.

Daniel Peterson earned the pitching win, handling the first six innings of the game. Kling pitched the final inning.

With storms predicted, Friday’s games scheduled for the afternoon were moved to the morning. That put New Richmond into a 9 a.m. game against Menomonie. Lucas got the start and he threw a beauty. He pitched a complete game five-hitter, leading New Richmond to a 10-1 victory. Menomonie’s only run was unearned.

New Richmond coach Rick Jirik said Lucas has been one of the team’s biggest surprises of the summer.

“He’ll vie for a spot in the rotation next spring,” Jirik said. “And at the plate as well. He hits the ball hard.”

Again, it was New Richmond that struck early in the game. Peterson and John Earley both delivered two-run singles as New Richmond posted 4 on the scoreboard in the first inning. Two more runs were added in the second inning on a double from Noah Towberman. The charge continued in the third inning with RBI singles from Charlie Thibodeau and Jake Jirik. Peterson delivered an RBI single in the fourth.

For most of the spring and summer seasons, the coaches used a designated hitter for Peterson. With a shortage of players, he was allowed to hit for himself. He assured the coaches they wouldn’t be sorry and he was right. He went 2-2 in this game and was a productive hitter throughout the tournament.

The win over Menomonie put New Richmond into the championship game against River Falls, which hadn’t lost. This was a close game until the seventh. New Richmond trailed 3-2 until River Falls rang up seven runs in the seventh. New Richmond was able to strike back for one run in the bottom of the seventh, but it was too little in a 10-3 final that gave River Falls the regional title.

New Richmond scored once in the first inning on singles from Jirik and Earley, followed by a sacrifice fly from Towberman. Towberman scored in the fourth inning, starting the inning with a double and scoring on a single from Peterson.

Earley pitched against River Falls. Similar to what happened to Jirik in the opening loss, River Falls took advantage when the New Richmond pitchers began to get pitches up in the strike zone.

Before this tournament, New Richmond finished its regular season with a 6-2 loss to Hudson on July 16. New Richmond employed five pitchers to get the staff ready for the Legion tournament. Kier led New Richmond with two hits.

Coach Jirik said the coaching staff viewed the summer season as a success. He said progress was seen in every aspect of the game. The defense that was shaky at the beginning of the season had become very reliable by the end of the season. And the goal of getting a number of players consistent mound time will benefit them next spring.

“The summer (Legion season) is for development. The spring (varsity season) is all about winning,” Jirik said.

One of the aspects that impressed Jirik was how the 2018 seniors stepped up during the summer to become more vocal leaders, taking ownership as the seniors in the program.

New Richmond Junior Legion

Development was also the theme for the New Richmond Junior Legion team. The squad finished its season last Thursday with a 9-8 win over Prescott. New Richmond’s Junior team finished the summer with a 4-7-1 record.

New Richmond needed four-run bursts in the fourth and seventh innings to come up with the win against Prescott. Plate discipline is one area where the New Richmond boys progressed and it played into the seventh inning rally, which started with four walks. Jacob Gondreau singled home Garrett Thomas with the eventual deciding run in the seventh.

Cooper Eckardt pitched the first four innings of the game, with Thomas earning the win by handling the final five innings of the game.

Coach Chris Riba said the summer was used to get the players ready for junior varsity and varsity ball after nearly the entire team played at the freshman level during the spring.

“It’s all about player development, getting the guys at-bats and the chance to pitch. The understanding of the game, there was some good growth there,” Riba said.

Dave Newman

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 more than 30 years.

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