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Steve Preisler, left, Fletcher-Pechacek Post 121 liaison for American Legion baseball, poses with Isaac Witt of the River Falls team after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Legion team's season opener against Menomonie last Monday. Witt recently returned from the 69th session of Badger Boy's State, where he was elected secretary of state, the third highest office among the hundreds of boys participating in this year's Badger Boy's State. Preisler was also a participant at Badger Boy's State ...

Legion faces stiff competition at Omaha tourney

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The River Falls American Legion baseball team saw some high-level baseball at the Battle of Omaha Tournament in Omaha, Neb., last week.

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Not only did the local players face some of the best all-star squads in the country, they also caught some of the more dramatic moments from the College World Series from the stands.

River Falls went 1-4 at the tournament, which featured 48 teams from all over the country, many consisting of players from multiple high schools and in some cases from across their respective states. The team faced several NCAA Division 1 players and a couple who have already been drafted by Major League Baseball.

The Legion's lone victory came over Illinois, 11-8, while losing to Kansas, 14-11, Colorado, 7-2, Nebraska, 11-2, and North Carolina, 14-2.

"Both the Colorado and North Carolina teams we played were made up entirely of graduated seniors going on to play in college and 19-year-old kids who have already played their freshman year of college," River Falls coach Ryan Bishop said. "Regardless of the scores, there's no doubt our players got better by playing these caliber teams."

The squad also witnessed two of the most dramatic endings at the College Baseball World Series.

"We saw the TCU comeback win over Florida State on the full-count, two-out grand slam Wednesday night," Bishop said. "We also saw the Thursday night 12-inning game that ended with a full-count, two-out walk-off hit in South Carolina's win over Oklahoma. So we saw some great college games that just added to the whole experience this weekend for us."

River Falls' 11-8 victory over Illinois featured a complete-game effort from Jack Herum on the mound, backed up by a three-hit game from Nate Soley and multiple hits from JP Feyereisen and Colin Pechacek at the plate.

Herum allowed eight runs, four earned, on eight hits while striking out three and walking two. Soley was 3-for-4 with a double and RBI and Feyereisen had two doubles and two runs scored while Pechacek was 2-for-3 with a run batted in. Alex Call and Josh Halling both contributed two-run singles in the win.

"Aside from one inning, Jack was able to settle in and get the job done," Bishop said. "It was nice to get at least one win down there."

In the first game of the tournament against Kansas last Wednesday, River Falls battled back from a 12-0, third-inning deficit only to have the game end with the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh in a 14-11 loss.

Marty Herum was 3-for-3 with a triple and two RBI and Ryan Kusilek was 3-for-4 with two RBI while Feyereisen and Call had two hits each.

"We got off to a rough start, but I was very proud of the boys for battling back and just about pulling the upset off," Bishop said. "We were a little intimidated before the game even started and it took a couple of innings to just relax and play ball."

Feyereisen had three more hits, including a double, in the 7-2 loss to Colorado while Kusilek was 2-for-3 with an RBI. Feyereisen took the complete-game loss, allowing six earned runs on 10 hits while striking out four and walking five.

"JP battled against a very good hitting team and gave us a chance," Bishop said. "A few late runs put the game out of reach, but in all, it was a very close game most of the way."

Soley drove in both River Falls' runs in the 11-2 loss to Nebraska while Feyereisen was 2-for-2 with an RBI and Pechacek had an RBI double in the 14-2 loss to North Carolina.

"It was a 3-2 game in the fifth inning before they broke out for 10 runs in the fifth," Bishop said about the North Carolina loss. The boys battled to a one-run game most of the way against one of the best teams in the tournament."

Feyereisen finished the tournament 10-for-16 at the plate.

"JP had a great tournament for us and continues to prove himself as a true clean-up hitter," Bishop said.

River Falls will host Spooner/Hayward on Wednesday, June 30, and Eau Claire Thursday, July, 1, at 6 p.m. both nights.

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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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