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Legion baseball regional champs

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The River Falls American Legion Post 121 baseball team went 3-0 at last week's Menomonie Regional, including defeating New Richmond twice, to advance to the 2013 Wisconsin State American Legion Class AA State Tournament this weekend in Kewaunee County.

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River Falls will take a record of 20-11 into its first round state tourney game against Menasha (26-6) Friday, Aug. 2, at 11 a.m. at Luxemberg-Casco High School field.

Last week in Menomonie, the River Falls Post 121 team defeated New Richmond, 11-0, Menomonie, 5-4, and New Richmond again, 8-3, to earn a berth at state.

"Our guys understand what it means to earn something and certainly have earned this opportunity to go to the state tournament," head coach Mark Hallberg said. "We have an unselfish team and our guys respect one another and the game baseball. We look to embrace the upcoming challenges this weekend and have a blast throughout the process."

In the regional opener last Friday against New Richmond, Brian Grove went 3-for-4 at the plate with a double, stolen base and three RBI and James Witt allowed just two hits and struck out nine as River Falls posted an 11-0, five-inning victory.

Mason Woiwode singled in a pair of runs during River Falls' four-run first inning and added an RBI groundout in the second as River Falls increased its lead to 8-0. Michael Wesner tripled in a run in the third while Witt helped himself at the plate with two hits and two runs scored.

"Our guys came ready to play," Hallberg said. "We hit the ball well and played good defense behind a gem from James Witt. It was a good way to start the tournament."

Friday afternoon against Menomonie, Logan Schmidt singled in Wesner with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning and Jake Halling faced just three Menomonie batters to put the finishing touches on a complete-game outing in a 5-4 River Falls' win.

Menomonie led 1-0 before Jon Krueger singled, stole second and scored on a base hit by Brady Stocker in the bottom of the second to tie the score. River Falls went up 2-1 in the third on an RBI double by Kyle Duex that plated Schmidt before Menomonie scored a pair of runs in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead.

River Falls went up 4-3 in the fifth when Schmidt singled, Sam Barr walked and both scored on an error by Menomonie's third baseman. Menomonie tied it up in the top of the sixth before Schmidt delivered the go-ahead RBI in the bottom of the inning.

"Menomonie seems to always play us tough," Hallberg said. "It was a good game and we executed the fundamentals down the stretch in order to get it done. Our guys battled for the entire game and were rewarded for their effort."

Schmidt went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored to lead Post 121 at the plate while Halling allowed four runs, three earned on eight hits while striking out six and walking two.

Sunday's title game featured a rematch between River Falls and New Richmond with New Richmond needing to beat River Falls twice in order to advance. River Falls never let them in the game however, jumping out to a 4-0 first inning lead and never looking back in an 8-3 victory.

Duex doubled in two runs and Krueger blasted a two-run homer to right center to account for River Fall's four runs in the first. Halling drove in a pair of runs with a pinch-hit single in the sixth before scoring on a single by Witt.

Woiwode went 2-for-4 with two runs scored in the victory while Duex pitched the first four innings to earn the victory on the mound, allowing two runs on four hits with four strikeouts and two walks. Krueger allowed one run in two innings of work before Woiwode pitched a scoreless seventh.

"Our guys came out the gates ready to go," Halling said. "Our guys pitched well and played good defense. Kyle Duex did a good job settling in, and Jon Krueger and Mason Woiwode also did a nice job contributing on the mound."

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Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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