The final night of Middle Border Conference baseball action saw plenty of good news for the New Richmond and St. Croix Central teams on Monday.
New Richmond finished off its fourth straight MBC championship with a 2-0 win at New Richmond’s Citizens Field. The Tigers finish the conference season 14-0 and they have now won 31 straight MBC games.
St. Croix Central locked up second place in the MBC standings, the Panthers’ best finish since moving to the conference. Central did this by sweeping a pair of games at Osceola, giving the Panthers a 9-5 final MBC record.
As the Tigers prepare for the start of the WIAA Division 2 tournaments on Thursday, they are counting on pitching and defense to be the backbone of their postseason success. That certainly was the case on Monday.
The Tigers were limited to four hits, but Tiger pitchers Ryan Kling and Reece Lucas combined on a two-hit shutout as the Tigers defeated Ellsworth, 2-0.
Kling has been the premier pitcher in the MBC this season and that carried through to the end. He now has a 9-1 record and his earned run average stands at 0.83. He is averaging a strikeout an inning.
“Ryan pitched awesome,” said Tiger coach Travis Helland.
Lucas worked the ninth inning to earn the save.
The Tigers played errorless ball to support the effective pitching.
Ellsworth also got solid pitching, limiting the Tigers to four hits. The Tigers scored in the opening inning. Hayden Bradbury led off with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Talon Seckora’s single.
The next Tiger run came in the third inning. Jack Bau reached on a two-out error and stole second base. He scored when Cooper Eckardt reached on an error.
Helland said the team never talked about completing an unbeaten MBC season. He said the success is a product of the team’s drive to win every game.
“The focus has always been the day-to-day grind. It takes a full team to do that. It’s something to be proud of,” Helland said.
SCC spells success
Central’s double-header sweep at Osceola came on scores of 2-0 and 4-1. The Panthers had sensational pitching, allowing two hits over the 10 innings of the two games. The two wins give the Panthers a 9-5 MBC record, the best mark for the team in its four years since moving from the Dunn-St. Croix Conference.
The Panthers allowed Osceola one hit in each game. Mason Dado and Derek Myer combined for the one-hitter in the opening game. Dado struck out eight batters in the 11 outs he recorded. His exploits weren’t done when he left the mound.
Osceola loaded the bases in the fourth inning. Dado saved the game by making a diving two-out catch.
“He webbed it perfectly, he slid on his belly 10 feet,” said Central coach Tom Sauve. “He probably saved three runs. That was really deflating for Osceola and it reinvigorated us.”
Keagen Berg led off the game with a single and he scored on Zac Holme’s single to give the Panthers an early lead. The Panthers scored again in the fourth on singles from Myer and Trevor Miller.
Myer continued pitching to start the second game. He and Miller combined on the second one-hitter of the day. The Panthers took charge with three runs in the second inning, scored on three straight doubles. Holme, Dado and Miller produced those doubles. Spencer Trainor singled home the third run of the inning.
Sauve said pitching and defense have been areas of concentration for the Panthers in recent weeks. They are hoping it leads to postseason success. Central opens Division 2 regional play on Thursday, hosting Altoona at 5 p.m.
The Spartans put up an excellent battle against Rice Lake, the top seed in the Division 2 regional tournament bracket. The score was tied 1-1 through much of the game, but Rice Lake notched two late goals to edge the Spartans, 3-1.
Somerset wasted no time letting Rice Lake know that this was going to be a competitive game. Somerset freshman midfielder Rachel Webb scored the opening goal 5:34 into the action. Forward Brooke Mitchell got the ball upfield and sent a pass to Webb in the center of the Rice Lake zone.
“Rachel hit a rocket from the 18,” said Somerset coach Bill Roll. Roll said Webb played forward until moving to the midfield this season, crediting her for making steady progress in her new position.
Rice Lake scored exactly 10 minutes later. The score stayed 1-1 until Rice Lake scored in the 70th minute, then again in the 78th minute.
The Spartans played the game without two of their three leading scorers, with Satin Mull and Erin Huerta both sidelined for the game. Several players did step up with strong efforts, led by Brycen Chladek and Kristine Scherz.
Somerset’s regular season is now complete with a record of 12-3-1. The Spartans have 10 days off before beginning WIAA Division 2 tournament action, hosting a 7 p.m. game against Baldwin-Woodville on Thursday, May 30. The Spartans are the third seed in the region and B-W is the sixth seed. Roll said this will give the Spartans to hold six practices in preparation for the playoffs.