Fish play home opener Saturday
The two-time defending St. Croix Valley Baseball League champion River Falls Fighting Fish will host the Plum City Blues Saturday, May 18, at 1 p.m. at the River Falls High School Field.
The local amateur men's baseball team is coming off a 2012 season that saw it post a record of 34-10 overall, 14-1 in SCVBL play.
The Fish return a number of players from their 2012 league championship team but will be without the services of two key players -- shortstop Marty Herum and pitcher J.P. Feyereisen -- who will be taking their talents to the Northwood League, a summer baseball league comprised of the top college players from across the nation and North America.
Herum, a sophomore at UW-Whitewater, led the SCVBL in hitting last year with an average of .463 while Feyereisen, a sophomore at UW-Stevens Point, posted a 7-1 record and 1.54 earned run average.
Herum currently leads the WIAC in hitting with an average of .439 while Feyereisen is 6-2 with a league-low 1.73 ERA at Stevens Point. Both former Wildcats will be playing for their respective teams in the first round of the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament this weekend in Whitewater.
Herum will join the Mequon-based Lakeshore Chinooks of the Northwoods League at the conclusion of the college season. The Chinooks ownership group includes Milwaukee Brewers radio announcer Bob Uecker and Hall of Famer and former Brewer Robin Yount.
Feyereisen will begin his second stint with the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters at the end of the college season. He appeared in four games with the team in 2012, striking out eight batters in eight innings of relief over the final month of the season.
Former Wildcat Brian Giebel is expected to move in from the outfield to take over Herum's position at shortstop for the Fighting Fish. Giebel hit .399 in 2012 with four home runs and 40 runs batted in, all second on the team to Herum.
Giebel, who played college baseball at UW-Stout, has been with the Fish since the team started in River Falls in 2008 and is the team's career leader in home runs (19), RBI (155) runs scored (176), hits (253) and stolen bases (48).
Another former Wildcat and original Fish -- centerfielder Clint Kemp -- returns after hitting .391 a year ago, third best on the team, while player-manager Josh Eidem is back after batting .337 and veteran third baseman Nathan Brom returns after hitting .320. Brom is the Fish career leader in hit-by-pitches with 30.
Other former Wildcats back with the Fish this season include outfielders Colin Pechacek, Nate Soley and Adam Brathol, infielders Adam Stuessel, Ryan Gilbertson and Tyler Hunter, and pitchers Trevor Gutting, Brandon Gilbertson, Jack Herum and Greg Cheever.
Pechacek is coming off a 2012 rookie season where he hit .333 with 28 RBI, third-best on the team, while Soley hit .292 while playing 32 games without an error in the outfield.
Headlining the returning Fish pitching staff is UW-River Falls head football coach Matt Walker, who went 7-0 last year with a 1.89 ERA and tossed the first no-hitter in Fighting Fish history. Veterans Rick Wells (4-0, 2.63 ERA) and Dan Morgan (4-1, 3.00 ERA), are also back.
Catcher Joel Schafer will look to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2012 season that saw him hit .268 with two home runs and 17 RBI despite missing nearly half the year.
Current Wildcat Alex Call, who will be heading to Ball State University on a Division I baseball scholarship in the fall, is expected to join the Fish at the conclusion of the high school season. Call batted .333 in four games with the Fish last year.
Following Saturday's home opener against Plum City, the Fish will visit the Hudson River Rats on Sunday, May 19, before taking part in the annual Plum City Memorial Day Tournament May 24-26.