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Baseball learns from busy week

River Falls' third baseman Josh Rudesill fields a big hop before throwing the batter out at first for the final out of the second inning in the Cats' 8-7 loss to Blaine last Wednesday. Bob Burrows photo.1 / 2
Wildcat pitcher Jake Halling rears back to fire a pitch to the plate in the second inning of the Cats' 8-7 loss to Blaine last Wednesday at the high school field. The Cats had a busy week, going 3-3 in six games, including 3-1 in Big Rivers Conference play. Bob Burrows photo.2 / 2

The Wildcat baseball team has gone 3-3 in its last six games, with all three wins coming against Big Rivers Conference opponents.

The Cats split a doubleheader with Chippewa Falls last Tuesday, May 7, winning the first game on an RBI single by Ryan Tierney in the top of the ninth inning before losing the nightcap, 9-4. This past Monday, May 13, James Witt threw a five-inning complete game one-hit shutout in a 3-0 win over Rice Lake before the Cats won the second game, 4-3, on a walk-off single by Alex Call in the bottom of the sixth.

In between the BRC twin bills, the Cats battled back from a 7-0 deficit before losing to Blaine, Minn. 8-7, last Wednesday, May 8, and dropped a 10-8 decision at East Ridge (Minn.) on Thursday, May 9.

"It was a busy week as we continue to learn and grow both physically and mentally," Wildcat co-head coach Ryan Bishop said. "It was good to win a few games, but also tough to lose a couple games we could have won. We hung with some very good teams until the final out, but simply didn't execute well enough get the job done in crunch time."

This past Monday at Rice Lake, Jon Krueger had two hits, including a double, and Witt held the Warriors to just one hit in a 3-0 Wildcat win.

"James Witt pitched a great game and our offense hit the ball well enough to get a few runners across," co-head coach Mark Hallberg said. "Defense played solid and Kyle Duex did a great job behind the dish handling James."

In the nightcap, Call drove in Logan Schmidt for the tying run with a double in the bottom of the fourth inning, then singled in pinch-runner Tierney for the winning run in the bottom of the sixth.

"It was nice to see Alex come through with those clutch hits," Bishop said.

Jake Halling pitched 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win on the mound.

"Jake Halling came in in relief and did a fantastic job of shutting Rice Lake down for four innings," Hallberg said. "He really spelled us and was key in this game. Bigger picture; our team came back from three runs and played smart, hard, and aggressive the entire game. This was good to see and we will build on this."

Last Tuesday at Chippewa Falls, the Cats trailed 3-1 in the first game before scoring twice in the top of the sixth to tie the score. Tyler Eliason was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded for one run while Duex hit into an RBI fielder's choice for the other.

The score remained tied until the top of the ninth when Josh Rudesill led off with a walk, was sacrificed to second by Witt, and scored on a single by Tierney. Krueger pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth to preserve the victory.

In the nightcap, Sam Barr had two hits and two RBI and Rudesill went 2-for-3 but the Cats came out on the short end of a 9-4 decision.

Last Wednesday at home against Blaine, the Cats dug themselves out of a 7-0 second inning hole with a four-run third inning. Blaine scored a single run in the fourth and that proved to be the difference as the Cats came up one run short in the end, 8-7.

Barr, Witt and Brady Stocker all had two hits and one RBI while Stocker threw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to keep the Cats in the game.

At East Ridge on Thursday, the Cats led 7-5 before East Ridge scored five runs in the top of the sixth and held on for a 10-8 victory.

Duex had three hits and one RBI and Barr was 2-for-4 with two RBI while Michael Wesner had two hits, two runs and two RBI. Schmidt also had two hits and scored twice and Call had two hits while Witt doubled and scored twice and Krueger doubled in a run.

Barr worked the first five innings on the mound, allowing three earned runs on five hits while striking out four and walking two. Mason Woiwode was tagged for one unearned run on one hit in the fifth before Dylan Kusilek took the loss, allowing two earned runs on five hits in one inning of work.

"Often times it is said individuals learn more from their failures then successes in life," Hallberg said. "I believe in this and am hopeful our team is continuing to get better throughout the course of this season. Our guys are working hard and competing well. I'm confident our team will continue to get after it on a day to day basis and stay aggressive throughout the process."

The Cats will travel to Hudson for a BRC doubleheader this Friday, May 17, beginning at 4 p.m.

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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