With the WIAA playoffs beginning soon, the local baseball teams are picking up challenging non-conference games to get them “playoff ready.”
New Richmond and Somerset took on teams from within their WIAA Division 2 regional playoff bracket, while St. Croix Central faced an undefeated defending state champion.
The last four games for the Tigers have all come against teams within the Division 2 regional bracket. The Tigers hosted Menomonie on Friday, losing 8-5 to drop to 16-7 for the season.
Three of those four games last week came against teams in the Tigers’ half of the regional bracket. That has led to some challenging handling of the pitching staff for the Tiger coaching staff. The coaches didn’t want any of their possible tournament opponents to face top pitchers Ryan Kling and Charlie Thibodeau. This turned out to be a chance for the depth in the team’s pitching to show. Senior Cole Eastep got two of the starts, including Friday’s game against Menomonie. He worked four and two-third innings, allowing two earned runs.
“Every guy we run out there, we have supreme confidence in our guys to get the job done,” Tiger coach Travis Helland said of the team’s pitching depth.
James Schutte allowed two runs, neither earned, in the final 2.1 innings of work.
If you see a pattern of unearned runs, you’ve made a good catch. The Tigers had five errors Friday.
“We did enough offensively and pitching to win. We didn’t get enough done defensively. We made a lot of costly mistakes,” Helland said.
The big hit of the day for the Tigers was a two-run single from senior Talon Seckora in the second inning that briefly tied the score. Brandon Gaspord also drove home two runs and Jack Bau produced two of the Tigers’ five hits.
The Tigers host Ellsworth on Monday in their regular season finale as the Tigers look to complete a perfect Middle Border Conference season.
St. Croix Central
There were no complaints at all from the St. Croix Central coaches after the Panthers lost to WIAA Division 3 defending state champion Webster on Friday, 4-0.
Webster, which is coached by former major league pitcher Jarrod Washburn, features two of his sons. The Tigers are 23-0.
Central coach Tom Sauve, who received his master’s degree at UW-Superior on Saturday, sounded quite pleased with the Panthers’ performance. He said Trevor Miller and Mason Dado both pitched well against the hard-hitting Webster lineup. The biggest problem for the Panthers was the younger of the Washburn brothers, Owen. He pounded a two-run homer that hit the Webster school that sits beyond the outfield wall in the first inning. He did the same thing in the third inning, only this was a solo shot.
Zac Holme had the Panthers’ only hit as they faced one of Webster’s top pitchers, Hunter Rosenbaum.
“It’s pretty fair to say he’s the best pitcher we’ve seen this year,” Sauve said.
The Panthers are back in action Monday, playing a pair of games at Osceola to wrap up the Middle Border Conference schedule.
Altoona is the fifth seed and Somerset the seventh seed in the Division 2 regional bracket. When they met on Friday, they showed that they are pretty evenly matched, with Altoona scoring a 12-8 win.
The Spartans had some defensive issues early, which caused them to get into an early 6-1 hole.
“We fought back,” said Somerset coach Zac Eichten. “Getting down that early didn’t bode well for us.”
Eichten said the top five batters in the Altoona are all quality hitters. Aaron Shartin-Folkert pitched the first three innings for Somerset, with Will Piletich working three innings and Ryan Kelly one inning in relief.
The Spartans also showed they have some pretty legit hitters, led by senior AJ Beasley, who had a double and triple and scored three runs. Jack Gazdik, Nick Swanson and Jimmy Siggens all had two hits. Andre Beasley produced the Spartans’ biggest hit, a three-run double that cut Altoona’s lead to 8-6.
“It was a huge hit for Andre. He smoked the ball over the leftfielder’s head,” Eichten said. “We hit the ball all day long.”
Somerset is back in action Monday, playing a double-header at Amery that starts at 3:30 p.m.