Fish ready to defend titleIf the River Falls Fighting Fish are going to defend their 2011 Wisconsin Baseball Association state championship, they’re going to have to endure what player-manager Josh Eidem called, “the gutsiest weekend in the history of the Fish.”
By: Bob Burrows, River Falls Journal
If the River Falls Fighting Fish are going to defend their 2011 Wisconsin Baseball Association state championship, they’re going to have to endure what player-manager Josh Eidem called, “the gutsiest weekend in the history of the Fish.”
While the Fish might appear to be one of the favorites after receiving the state’s top seed for this weekend’s WBA semifinal round, Eidem said the team is going into the weekend banged up and shorthanded.
The team will be without one of its top pitchers -- J.P. Feyereisen -- who signed a 12-day contract with the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters of the Northwoods League last week. One of its top relievers and utility players -- Trevor Gutting -- is out for the season after taking a pitch to the cheek last month. And slugging catcher Joel Schaffer hasn’t played since July 14 due to a nagging elbow injury.
Schaffer is expected back for the Aug. 11 playoff opener at Oakey park in Osceola against the Bruce Belters, but Eidem said he’s not at 100 percent yet.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Fish. They enter the weekend with three starters hitting near or above .400, led by WIAC Co-Player of the Year Marty Herum, who is hitting a blistering .460 in 30 games this season. Herum also leads the team in home runs with six, and RBI with 43.
Brian Giebel is hitting .413 with four home runs, 36 RBI and a team-high 17 stolen bases while Clint Kempf is batting .397 with 26 RBI.
Colin Pechacek (.339), Eidem (.337), Nate Soley (.307) and Nathan Brom (.300) give the Fish seven regulars hitting .300 or better this season.
The Fish also drafted speedy outfielder Adam Churchill from Elmwood for the playoff run.
“We’re hoping he provides us with some pop in the two-hole and some more speed out in front of Marty, Schaffer, and Clint Kempf,” Eidem said.
Eidem said Feyereisen’s absence had no effect on who will start on the mound Aug. 11 against Bruce.
“Matt Walker is going to start on Saturday,” he said, referring to the UW-River Falls head football coach. “It was an easy managerial decision because we had no choice, UWRF football reports on Sunday.”
Walker is 6-0 in nine games this season with an earned run average of 1.95 and an incredible strikeout to walk ratio of 8.29. In 60 innings pitched, Walker has struck out 58 batters while walking just seven.
Eidem said veteran lefty Rick Wells will get the start Sunday if the Fish advance. Wells is 4-1 in six appearances this season with a 3.08 earned run average.
Eidem said Feyereisen will be back should the Fish reach the WBA finals in Osseo Aug. 18-19.
“While you obviously hate to lose a talented pitcher for playoffs, it was a great opportunity for J.P. and the guys were really happy to see him go face some of the best hitters NCAA Division I has to offer,” Eidem said.
Bruce enters Saturday’s contest as the No. 4 seed after posting a record of 11-7 in Independent League play. The winner of Saturday’s game will face either the Ellsworth Hubbers or the Eau Claire Bears Sunday, Aug. 12, at 3 p.m. for a berth in the WBA finals.
The Bears finished in third place in the South Division of the Chippewa Rivers League with a record of 17-5, and had an overall record of 25-11, while the Hubbers finished 10-6 in St. Croix Valley Baseball League play, 15-6 overall.
“We like our chances if we can make it out of this first weekend, because anything can happen at the finals,” Eidem said. “But if we do make it through, it will surely go down as one of the gutsiest weekends in the history of the Fish. We might not be 100 percent healthy, but we're going to give 100 percent effort representing River Falls, and that's what's really important.”
Oakey Park is located two blocks east of Hwy. 35, on Seventh Ave, in Osceola.
A fan bus for the River Falls Fighting Fish’s Wisconsin Baseball Association playoff opener in Osceola Saturday, Aug. 3, is being organized by Johnnie’s Bar.
The bus will leave Johnnie’s at 3 p.m. for the Fish’s 5 p.m. game at Oakey Field against the Bruce Belters. Cost is $25 per person and includes beverages on the bus to and from the game and game admission.
The bus is contingent on getting enough riders to sign up, but seats are expected to go fast so space may be limited. If interested, sign up at Johnnie’s or call 715 425-9291 to reserve a spot.