Last year the Hudson River Rats were the only St. Croix Valley Baseball League team to make it to the 8-team finals of the Wisconsin Baseball Association State Tournament. This season they're off to a 2-3 start in league play as they try and return.
Both league wins came last week with a 3-1 victory over the Spring Valley Hawks Saturday, June 1, and a 13-3 mercy-rule win over the Bay City Bombers Saturday, June 8. In between they defeated former SCVBL foe Osceola 11-2 Wednesday, June 5, at Oakey Park before dropping a 4-2 league decision at Plum City Sunday, June 9.
Manager Chris LaBreche believes the River Rats, now 4-8 overall, are poised to make another playoff run as they begin their 20th season in Hudson.
"We've got a good squad here and guys are having fun," he said. "We were playing the best of the best over in Minnesota early in the season and playing with a number of guys gone. We'll see where we can roll from here."
The Rats got rolling in the first of three straight wins with a 3-1 victory at Spring Valley Saturday, June 1, behind a 150-pitch complete game effort by former Hudson Raider Sam Glade.
Glade allowed just four hits and struck out nine while Dennis Reinhardt singled in Blake Berger for the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth. Berger had an RBI single in the bottom of the first to give the Rats a 1-0 lead while Jason Hollar doubled and scored on an error in the eighth to make the final 3-1.
Berger, who came over to the River Rats this season from the Osceola Braves along with his younger Noah, doubled to lead off the sixth inning before scoring on Reinhardt's two-out single.
Noah Berger held his former team to just two runs through six innings last Wednesday night in Osceola and Ronnie Donley threw three innings of hitless relief as the River Rats bombed the Braves 11-2. Chris Dent had three hits and two RBI and Mitch Lewis tripled and scored three times as the Rats took advantage of seven Osceola errors.
Saturday at home against Bay City the River Rats erupted for seven runs in the second inning on their way to a 13-3, eight-inning victory.
Hudson scored three runs in the inning on a bases-loaded fly ball by J Patterson that was misplayed by the Bay City center fielder and got an RBI double by Blake Berger and a run-scoring single by Hollar to open up a 7-1 lead.
Berger and Matt Schwechler had three hits each in the win and Hollar and Taylor Mattern had two hits apiece while Glade, Reinhardt and Noah Berger all saw action on the mound.
Sunday in Plum City the Rats scored two runs in the top of the eighth but it wasn't enough in a 4-2 league loss to the Blues.
Plum City was clinging to a 1-0 lead before putting three runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth. Lewis doubled and scored on a two-out single in the eighth and Brady Gunderson followed with a single to score Hollar but that's as close as Hudson could get against Plum City veteran ace Tony Garner, who struck out 13 Rats on his way to the complete game victory.
Hudson will play in the Josh Harrison Memorial Tournament in Cannon Falls, Minn., this weekend before a string of five straight road games, including league contests at Ellsworth Friday, June 21, Menomonie Saturday, June 29, and Spring Valley Sunday, June 30. The SCVBL All-Star Game is scheduled for Wednesday, July 3, in Ellsworth, and LaBreche said after that it will be off to the races as far as teams jockeying for playoff berths.
"You can't tell right now, but If River Falls and Menomonie keep playing the way they've been playing they're going to be at the top," he said. "Then I think it's about four teams battling for two playoff spots, including us. Everything gets determined in July."