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Baseball: Wildcats sweep ECN

River Falls’ junior Joe Stoffel is welcomed back to the dugout after hitting a solo home run to give the Wildcat’s a 1-0 lead in the first game of a doubleheader against Eau Claire North Tuesday, April 9, at First National Bank of River Falls Field. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

The Wildcat baseball team opened the Big Rivers Conference season on a high note by sweeping defending conference champion Eau Claire North 11-3 and 2-1 in a doubleheader at First National Bank of River Falls Field Tuesday, April 9.

The Cats broke open the first game with seven runs in the bottom of the fifth inning before making a two-run first inning stand up in the nightcap.

Opening game starter Joe Stoffel gave himself a 1-0 lead with an opposite field home run in the bottom of the second but the Huskies answered with three unearned runs in the top of the third. The Cats got a run back in the fourth on a sac fly by Ragan Pinnow before sending 13 batters to the plate and scoring seven runs in the fifth.

Jaden Schwantz led off the inning with a home run before Alex Kelm reached on an error and Braden Mork and Jake Bargmanis both walked to load the bases before Pinnow was hit by a pitch to force in a run. Jackson Cleveland and Schwantz had two-run singles later in the inning before a base hit by Kelm gave River Falls an 9-3 lead.

The Cats tacked on two more runs in the sixth when Stoffel scored on a passed ball and Cleveland singled in a run to make the final 11-3.

Stoffel worked the first 4 2/3 innings, allowing three runs, all unearned, on six hits with eight strikeouts and two walks. Andrew Bevins picked up the win in relief, giving up two hits and no runs with a strikeout over the final 2 1/3.

Schwantz finished 4-for-5 at the plate with a homer and three RBI and Cleveland had two hits and three RBI while Stoffel, Bergmanis and Michael Krueger had two hits each.

Stoffel’s two-run double in the top of the first in the nightcap gave the Wildcats all the runs they would need as Braden Mork and Charlie Griffin combined on a two-hitter in a 2-1 River Falls win. North’s only run came on a two-out triple in the bottom of the seventh but Griffin was able to induce a ground out to short to strand the tying run at third.

Mork allowed just one hit with nine strikeouts and six walks over the first five innings while Griffin gave up one hit with two strikeouts and no walks over the final two frames. Schwantz had two of River Falls’ seven hits at the plate.

The Wildcats are scheduled to face Baldwin-Woodville in a non conference game Monday, April 15, at First National Bank of River Falls Field before visiting Hudson Tuesday, April 16.

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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