Baseball: Legion teams getting ready for state playoffs
The summer baseball season is short and both New Richmond American Legion teams are already building toward their playoff schedule.
The Post 80 Senior Legion team will compete in its playoffs on July 19-20 at Black River Falls. The Seniors are coming off a stretch where they went 3-3 in games against Osceola, River Falls and Hudson.
The Seniors swept games against Osceola on June 28. Charlie Thibodeau pitched the shutout in the opener as New Richmond won 6-0. Thibodeau allowed four hits while striking out 10. Mason Erickson led the offense with three hits and two runs driven in. Brady Cunningham contributed two hits.
New Richmond fell behind 8-4 early in the second game due to some defensive issues. The offense took over from there and Post 80 came back for a 12-8 win. Gabe Melby came on to pitch after the second inning and threw five shutout innings to earn the win. Thibodeau, Fred Riba and Cooper Eckardt all had three hits in the second game, with Thibodeau driving home three runs.
On July 2, Post 80 hosted River Falls in a Junior/Senior double-header. River Falls hit extremely well, winning 15-3. Post 80 had six hits and all of its runs were unearned.
The next day, Post 80 hosted a twinbill against Hudson. Thibodeau was on the mound in the opener and he stood out again as Post 80 earned a 3-1 win. Thibodeau threw a two-hitter after Hudson scored an unearned run in the first inning.
New Richmond matched that run in the bottom of the first when Thibodeau walked, stole second and scored on a single from Eckardt. Post 80 went ahead with two runs in the third. Thibodeau reached on a two-out error, Eckardt walked and they both scored on a double from Riba.
Hudson won the second game 10-0 where several of the Post 80 players had to leave for a hockey commitment.
The rest of the season will be a blur of activity for the Post 80 Seniors. That starts on Monday when they host Oakdale at 6 p.m. at New Richmond High School. The Seniors host Bloomer at Citizens Field on Tuesday. They play at Mahtomedi Wednesday and Prescott on Thursday. That’s followed by two games at Baldwin on Sunday. Post 80’s final home games will be on Tuesday, July 16 against Ellsworth.
The New Richmond Junior Legion team put together an eight-game win streak before having it come aground in one bad inning against River Falls on Tuesday.
The Post 80 Juniors had won four straight when they faced St. Croix Central on Saturday, adding to the total with 9-0 and 10-0 victories. New Richmond played at Altoona on Monday and the bats stood tall as New Richmond won 15-4 and 15-5.
It was the defense that was New Richmond’s undoing Tuesday. River Falls scored nine runs in one inning in winning 14-6.
In Saturday’s double shutout, New Richmond used its top four pitchers. Jackson Espiritu and Brock Unger both worked four innings as the starters, with Jaxon Altena and Dominic LaDuke working in relief.
Coach Brad Altena said Hayden Hatella is one of the players on the team showing clear progress. He reached base four times in the opener and he scored twice in both games.
“He’s been a bright spot. Defensively he’s so good and he’s starting to learn to hit the ball,” Coach Altena said.
Charlie Olson, Lane Bauer and Altena were other New Richmond players who had good days at the plate.
Bauer’s success earned him a promotion, as he was moved to the leadoff spot for Monday’s games. In the two games at Altoona he walked seven times, scored seven times and had a double. LaDuke had two doubles and scored three times in the opener. Altena and Unger also produced three hits. Unger’s hits included a double and an inside-the-park homer.
Hatella and Parker Stevens both had three hits to lead the offense in the second game. Altena and Jackson Espiritu both pitched two innings. Trent Manske pitched one inning on all three days of the busy weekend, not allowing a run.
Post 80 started with a 3-1 lead against River Falls on Tuesday, but that was washed away when River Falls produced its nine-run inning. Coach Altena said he was pleased that the New Richmond boys kept fighting back after giving up the big inning.
The upcoming week will be extremely busy for the Junior team. The Juniors host Hudson Monday and Chippewa Falls Wednesday before playing at Barron on Thursday. The dates for their state playoffs have been changed to this weekend. New Richmond will be the likely site for the tournament on Friday through Sunday.
For the Central Junior Legion team, the doubleheader was a challenge. With several players unavailable, the team fielded a very young lineup. A handful of pitchers were used during the games to spread around the pitching experience.
Central coach Dan O’Brien said the inexperience of his team showed, especially on defense.
“The kids played hard, but mistakes killed us,” he said.
The Central Senior team was scheduled to play Monday, but again was rained out. The Seniors were only able to play one game in June because of numerous rainouts. O’Brien said he is going to try to reschedule all the lost games.
The next time the Central Senior Legion is scheduled to play is on Monday in a home game against Prescott. The Junior team will be in action the next afternoon, hosting Chippewa Falls.
The Somerset Junior Legion team also resumes its schedule next week. Somerset will host Prescott on Monday and will play at Barron on Tuesday.