The only thing that was able to stop River Falls pitcher Joe Stoffel Tuesday. April 16, against Hudson was the pitch count.
Stoffel threw 6-1/3 innings of no-hit ball against the Raiders before reaching the state-mandated limit of 100 pitches in a 6-1 Wildcat win in the first game of a Big Rivers Conference doubleheader in Hudson. The Cats also took the second game 2-1 to move to 4-0 in BRC play.
The games were originally scheduled as a home-and-home series Tuesday in Hudson and Thursday in River Falls but for the second consecutive week the conference decided to play Tuesday doubleheaders in at attempt to avoid a late-week forecast of bad weather. That was just fine with Wildcat coach Ryan Bishop.
“Anytime you can sweep a conference doubleheader it's a good night,” Bishop said. “To do it on the road against your rival school is always a little sweeter.”
Game one was all about Stoffel. The 6-foot, 4-inch junior struck out 15 in six-plus innings without allowing a hit. He yielded a leadoff walk in Hudson’s half of the seventh, just his second of the game, and got a flyout to center for the first out of the inning before being forced to leave due to the pitch limit. Hudson got a pair of singles off Wildcat reliever Andrew Bevins, resulting in a run that was charged to Stoffel, but Bevins was able to get a groundout and pop out to end the game.
“Joe was as dominant as I've seen him on the mound,” Bishop said about Stoffel. “He attacked the zone with a hard fastball and threw his breaking ball for a strike in pretty much any count. He was flat out tough as nails tonight.”
The Wildcats staked Stoffel to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, aided by a Raider error. Walks to Jaden Schwantz and Adam Feyereisen, sandwiched around a single by Michael Krueger, loaded the bases before Stoffel’s one-out single drove in Schwantz with the first run of the game.
Jake Bergmanis followed with a one-out single to plate Krueger before Feyereisen scampered home when a throw back to the mound got away from the Raider pitcher.
The Cats added a run in the third when Stoffel singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Bergmanis, and scored on a single by Jackson Cleveland. Jake Miller’s two-run single in the fifth made it a 6-0 game.
Krueger finished with three hits in the win while Stoffel, Bergmanis and Miller had two each.
The Wildcats managed just three hits in the nightcap but pushed two runs across and Braden Mork threw five scoreless innings on the mound before making a game-saving catch in right field for the final out seal the 2-1 victory.
Hudson had runners in scoring position in every inning but Mork found a way to get out of it every time.
“Braden was, as they say, wildly effective,” Bishop said. “But he dug deep when he had to and executed some big pitches in crucial situations.”
River Falls took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Schwantz was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a sac bunt by Krueger and took third on a single by Feyereisen before scoring on the back end of a double steal with Feyereisen taking second.
Stoffel singled to lead off the fourth and later scored on a passed ball to make it a 2-0 game.
After leaving three runners in scoring position in the first three innings Mork worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth getting his seventh strikeout for the final out in the fifth with a Raider runner at third.
Hudson got a run off Wildcat reliever Charlie Griffin in the sixth to make it a one-run game and had the tying run at second with two outs in the seventh before Mork laid out to snag a line drive to right to end the game.
Bishop gave high marks to the Wildcat defense for committing just one error in the two games.
“Our defense continues to give our pitchers the comfort to throw strikes and just let the other team hit the ball,” Bishop said. “They made the routine plays and also came up with a couple big plays, including the diving catch to end the second game.”
Offensively Bishop said the Wildcats took advantage of their opportunities.
“We bunted well, were aggressive on the base paths, and continue to make strides in our situational hitting,” he said.
The Wildcats, now 4-2 overall, are scheduled to host Menomonie (5-2, 2-2) Tuesday, April 23, at 4:30 p.m. before traveling to Menomonie Thursday, April 25. They’ll play a non conference game at White Bear Lake Friday, April 26.