Fighting Fish bitten by Rats
The Hudson River Rats avenged a pair of losses earlier this season to defeat the River Falls Fighting Fish, 12-1, in the championship game of the Ellsworth Hubbers Baseball Tournament, held in conjunction with Cheese Curd Fest, Sunday night in Ellsworth.
The Fish had defeated the Rats in their two previous meetings -- 9-7 on May 31 and 10-6 on June 20. River Falls trailed by just a run, 2-1, heading into the seventh and final inning of Sunday's tournament title game before the Rats exploded for 10 runs to put the game away.
The loss was the first in four games for the Fish at Bob Young Field this season. They improved to 4-0 in Ellsworth by defeating Menomonie, 5-4, and New Richmond, 8-5, in their first two tournament games Saturday before falling to Hudson in Sunday's title matchup.
River Falls, now 12-7 overall, will travel to Hager City for a St. Croix Valley Baseball League contest and 4th of July showdown Saturday at 5 p.m. The Fighting Fish are currently 6-3 and in third place in the North Division of the SCVBL while Hager City is 1-7 in league play and in the cellar of the SCVBL's South Division.
Sunday the Fish return home for a non-league game against the Pine Island (Minn.) Pioneers at 1 p.m. at the high school field.
Last weekend River Falls kicked off play at the Ellsworth Tournament with a 5-4 victory over Menomonie.
The Eagles jumped on the board for three runs in the top of the first but River Falls responded with four runs in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by a bases-loaded double by Trevor Gutting that cleared the bases, to go ahead 4-3.
Clint Kempf added a solo home run in the fourth to extend the lead to 5-3.
Fighting Fish starter Dan Morgan shut down the Eagles from the second inning on, and retired the first two batters he faced in the top of the seventh before giving up a solo home run to Eagles' player-coach Luke Welch that cut the Fish's lead to 5-4.
Morgan then walked Ned Welch on four pitches before Ryan Gilbertson was summoned in from left field to take over on the mound. Gilbertson threw two pitched for strikes, the second resulting in a flare to shortstop Brian Giebel for the final out of the game.
After defeating New Richmond, 8-5, in Saturday night's semifinal, the Fish faced Hudson and the 2009 Big Rivers Conference Pitcher of the Year, Tyler Dierke, in the title game. Dierke, in his SCVBL debut with the River Rats, allowed just three Fighting Fish hits but was clinging to a 2-1 lead before his teammates erupted for 10 runs in the top of the seventh to seal the tournament championship.
The Rats hit four home runs in the seventh, including two by designated hitter Jason Bast. After Joel Shaffer and Bast hit back-to-back homers early in the inning, Bast came up again with the bases loaded and deposited another ball over the high left field fence. Paul Ruppert followed with a solo dinger for the second set of back-to-back homers in the inning for Hudson.
Sunday's Fighting Fish home game against Pine Island gets underway at 1 p.m. at the high school field and is Mainstreeter Bar and Grill's salute to Armed Forces Day.
Pre-game ceremonies will include a presentation of the colors and a special guest to throw out the first pitch. The first 30 fans in attendance will receive a free commemorative key chain courtesy of Mainstreeter Bar and Grill.
Next week the Fish will play an exhibition game Thursday at 6 p.m. against the River Falls American Legion team in the second annual Battle of the Bats. Both teams invite all players and parents in the River Falls Youth Baseball Association to watch them compete for local bragging rights.
Admission to all Fighting Fish and American Legion games is free.