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Title game against B-W goes to extra innings

<i>Bob Burrows photo</i> Masy Engel of River Falls takes the throw from catcher Justine Olson but can't get the tag down in time to stop Hudson's Missy Tennant from advancing to third on a passed ball in the fifth inning of the first game of a Big Rivers Conference doubleheader Thursday in Hudson. The Raiders swept the Wildcats, 8-0 and 10-2.

Two days after being swept by undefeated Hudson, the Wildcat softball team bounced back in style by taking first place at the St. Croix Central Tournament.

The Cats pounded Somerset, 12-1 in the semifinals before defeating Baldwin-Woodville, 14-13 in eight innings in the title game.

"Extra inning games are nail biting," Wildcat coach Rick Hansen said about the win over Baldwin-Woodville. "It was nice to win a close game, coming from behind several times. Our girls learned that the game is never over until the last out."

Trailing 13-10 in the bottom of the eighth, the Cats pulled to within a run on back-to-back RBI singles by Jaimie Althoff and Nikki Plunkett before both scored on a two-out double by Hayley Heschke to win the game.

Heschke had three hits and four RBI in the game while Plunkett was 4-for-5 with a double, stolen base and four RBI. Caitlyn Ahlborn, Lauren Cernohous and Erin Temme all had three hits as well.

"We had nine errors that game and played poorly defensively, but we kept battling and hitting the ball," Hansen said. "We overcame a lot to beat a very good Baldwin team and win the tournament."

Ahlborn pitched the first four innings and allowed five runs but just one was earned. Cernohous picked up the win in relief, with three earned runs allowed on five hits.

Cernohous went the distance in the Cats' 12-1 semifinal win over Somerset, striking out six and walking one while allowing one earned run.

River Falls pounded out 15 hits in the victory with Heschke leading the way by going 3-for-4 with a solo home run and four RBI. Masy Engel had two hits, including a triple, and drove in two runs while Justine Olson drove in a pair of runs with a double. Plunkett, Bethany O'Leary, Ahlborn and Rachel Matzek finished with two hits each.

"We just flat out hit the ball," Hansen said. "We played well defensively as well. Somerset scored in the first to go up 1-0, but after that we took control of the game."

Earlier in the week the Cats were swept by Big Rivers Conference co-leader Hudson, 8-0 and 10-2 at Hudson's Grandview Park.

"Hudson is a very good hitting team," Hansen said. "They just outhit us. They hit about every pitch Cerny threw in that first game."

Engel and Pam Obermueller had the only Wildcat hits in the opener.

Engel homered in the nightcap and Heschke added an RBI single but Hudson broke open a close game after a rain delay with six runs in the top of the seventh for a 10-2 win.

"Amanda (Grove) pitched pretty well and kept them off balance, then Caitlyn came in and like Amanda kept them off balance," Hansen said. "It was 4-2 going into the seventh and then the rain started and the game got delayed. We lost our focus during the delay and they scored six runs that inning."

The Wildcats, now 0-4 in the BRC, 3-5 overall, will visit Menomonie Thursday and play at the Pepin Quad on Saturday. Tuesday, May 11, they visit New Richmond.

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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