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Cats dominate in final two regular season games

The Wildcat baseball team needed a total of just 10 innings to win its final two games of the regular season last week.

The Cats disposed of Baldwin-Woodville 13-2 in five innings in a nonconference game last Tuesday before posting an 11-1 Big Rivers Conference win, also in five innings, on Thursday. Both games were played on the Wildcats' home field.

River Falls finishes the regular season with a record of 14-6 overall, 7-5 and in third place in the BRC. It opened WIAA regional play Tuesday, May 30 in Hudson against the Raiders. The winner will face top-seeded Eau Claire North Friday, June 2 at 3:30 p.m. in Eau Claire.

Big first innings helped the Cats in both wins last week. They put six runs on the board in their first at-bat against Baldwin-Woodville and scored seven in the first inning against Chippewa Falls.

John Slick put the Cats on the board against the Blackhawks with a two-run double following a lead-off walk to Adam Stuessel and a single by Jay Slick. Clint Kempf singled in John Slick and Mike Dusek walked before Pat Cashman doubled to the gap in right center to drive in Kempf and Dusek. Cashman would later score on an error to give the Cats a 6-0 lead.

The Blackhawks scored a pair of unearned runs against Wildcat starter Adam Palm in the second before River Falls scored three more runs in the third to open up a 9-2 lead.

After a walk to John Slick, Kempf followed with an RBI triple and scored on a single by Dusek, who would later score on a fielder's choice.

In the Wildcat half of the fourth, Chris Schmitt walked before back-to-back triples by Stuessel and Jay Slick resulted in two runs. Pam then singled in Jay Slick and Zach Heinselman doubled to drive in Palm to make the final 13-2.

Kempf was 3-for-3 with a triple, two runs scored and two RBI while Cashman was 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI. John Slick was 2-for-2 with a double, two runs scored and two RBI and Jay Slick was 2-for-4 with a triple, two runs scored and one RBI while Stuessel added an RBI triple and Heinselman an RBI double.

Palm picked up the win, giving up two unearned runs on just one hit while striking out six and walking three over the first four innings. Jay Slick worked the final inning on the mound, giving up one hit while striking out three and walking one.

"Both pitchers threw strikes and challenged their hitters," Wildcat head coach Ryan Bishop said. "Our only miscue was the one defensive error which led to both of their runs."

The Cats opened the game with 11 seniors on the field, including Trevor Gutting and Nate Troester, who are both out with season-ending injuries, coaching third and first, respectively. The only senior who didn't make it onto the field was Cory Mulhollam, who missed the game due to illness.

"As a coach, it was nice to see them have fun and play well together as their high school careers come to an end," Bishop said.

The fun continued Thursday against Chippewa Falls when Stuessel reached on an error to open the first inning, Trent Frey walked and Palm singled in Stuessel for the first run of the game. Following a walk to John Slick, Kempf delivered a sacrifice fly to plate Frey and Palm scored on a passed ball to make it a 3-0 game.

After Dusek and Joe Gillen both walked Heinselman was hit by a pitch to force in John Slick. Stuessel then singled to bring home Dusek and Jay Slick singled to score Gillen and Heinselman to give the Cats a 7-0 first inning lead and chase the Cardinals' starting pitcher.

The Cardinals scored their only run of the game in the fourth before the Cats scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth to end the game.

Heinselman reached on an error to start things off and Stuessel singled before Jay Slick reached on a fielder's choice when Stuessel was forced at second. Heinselman scored on a single by Frey and Jay Slick scored when Palm hit into a fielder's choice before John Slick singled and Mulhollam came in to pinch run. Kempf then delivered a double to score Frey and Mulhollam and end the game via the 10 run rule, 11-1.

"We put it all together tonight -- defensively, offensively and on the mound," Bishop said. "It was nice to finish our last homer game on a high note."

Kempf had a triple and three RBI in the win and Palm had two hits and two RBI while Stuessel was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Jay Slick had a hit and two RBI.

"We have been hitting the ball well lately and it's nice to see us swinging with confidence this time of the season," Bishop said.

John Slick picked up the five inning complete game win, allowing one run on four hits while striking out three and walking three.

"John went right at their hitters and used his defense tonight," Bishop said. "We had no errors and turned a couple double plays as well."

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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