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Legion picks up win over Hudson

River Falls pitcher Greg Cheever delivers a pitch to the plate on his way to a complete game victory in the American Legion baseball team's 7-3 win at Hudson last Wednesday. Cheever struck out five and walked two while allowing eight hits. Bob Burrows photo

The River Falls American Legion baseball team sandwiched a win over Hudson around losses to Eau Claire and Stillwater, Minn., on consecutive nights last week.

River Falls came out on the short end of a 4-3 decision at home to Eau Claire last Tuesday before scoring five runs in the top of the seventh in a 7-3 win at Hudson the next day. Thursday, Stillwater limited the locals to five hits on its way to a 9-2 victory in River Falls.

The legion team is now 7-8 overall and will face the River Falls Fighting Fish in an exhibition game Thursday at 6 p.m. at the high school field in the second annual "Battle of the Bats" for local bragging rights.

This weekend the team will host the sixth annual Falls Classic American Legion Baseball Tournament at the high school fields. Eight teams from Minnesota and Wisconsin will compete in pool play Friday and Saturday before the championship through fourth place games are played Sunday.

River Falls will open tournament play Friday at 4 p.m. on the varsity field against Mankato, Minn. Saturday it faces Rosetown, Minn., at 10 a.m. on the junior varsity diamond and Minneapolis South at 6 p.m. on the varsity field. Sunday play begins with third and fourth place games a 10 a.m. and culminates with the tournament championship game at 3 p.m. on the varsity field.

Last Tuesday against Eau Claire, River Falls fought back from a 4-0 deficit only to come up short, 4-3, in a scheduled nine-inning game. The loss came a week after Eau Claire had defeated River Falls 12-0 at Carson Park.

"This was a god confidence game for our guys," River Falls coach Ryan Bishop said. "Our defense played error free for nine innings and our pitchers threw well enough to give us a chance. Any time you can be competitive with a team like Eau Claire, it no doubt gives you confidence regardless of the outcome."

Dylan James was 2-for-4 with a run scored for the locals while Tyler Hunter had an RBI double and scored a run. Nate Soley doubled in the eighth with River Falls down by a run but was thrown out at the plate for the final out of the inning on James' second hit of the game to preserve the lead for Eau Claire.

Curtis Christensen started on the mound and was tagged with the loss, allowing four runs on five hits with one strikeout and one walk in three innings of work. Austin Johnson pitched six scoreless innings in relief, giving up six hits with one strikeout and three walks.

"Austin did a great job in relief tonight, keeping us in the game against a very good team," Bishop said.

Wednesday at Hudson, River Falls snapped a 2-2 tie with five runs in the top of the seventh on its way to a 7-3 victory.

No player had more than one hit in the game but James plated two runs with a single and another with a fielder's choice and Christensen added a two-run base hit in the locals' five-run seventh.

"After a slow start at the plate our guys came through with some timely hits with the game on the line," Bishop said. "It's a lot of fun when you can do that late in the game."

Greg Cheever went the distance to earn the win, allowing three runs on eight hits while striking out five and walking two.

"Greg has been as consistent as anyone for us on the mound," Bishop said. "He gives us a chance every time he takes the ball."

Thursday, Stillwater jumped out to a 5-0 second-inning lead on its way to a 9-2 victory. Christensen drove in both River Falls runs with a double in the fourth.

"Stillwater simply outhit us tonight," Bishop said. "They finished second in the Minnesota state tournament this spring and have a very nice team. No question playing teams like Stillwater and Eau Claire this week will help us become a better team as well."