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Baseball: Cats clinch share of BRC title

River Falls pitcher Joe Stoffel fires a strike to the plate on his way to throwing six innings of two-hit, shutout ball in the Wildcat’s 3-0 win over Chippewa Falls Thursday, May 16, in River Falls. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 2
River Falls rightfieder Bradon Mork goes sailing over the right field foul line fence after catching the ball for the final out in the Wildcat’s 3-0 win over Chippewa Falls Thursday, May 16, in River Falls. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 2

Joe Stoffel was angry after the Wildcats blew a five run lead in the bottom of the seventh in a 6-5, 10-inning loss to Chippewa Falls Tuesday, May 14. The loss not only spoiled the Wildcat’s perfect record in the Big Rivers Conference but threw a wrench into their plans for a BRC championship

But Stoffel and the Wildcats got some revenge two nights later at home, shutting out Chippewa Falls 3-0 at First National Bank of River Falls Field to hand the Cardinals their first BRC loss and clinch at least a share of their first BRC title since 2015.

“I was really mad Tuesday,” Stoffel said after pitching six innings of two-hit ball Thursday night. “(Coach) Bishop after the game was like, ‘I hope that hurts.’ And I was thinking, it really does hurt. And I came out here today and was like, I really want to beat these guys. So this feels good; it feels great.”

Thursday’s victory left the Wildcats with a final record of 11-1 in BRC play while Chippewa Falls slipped to 9-1 with two games remaining against Eau Claire North (7-2) next week.

Stoffel helped himself in the first inning when his two-out double to left field drove in Michael Krueger for an early 1-0 Wildcat lead.  

“I love getting one run right away like that,” Stoffel said. “I think I threw a lot better after we got that one run.”

After allowing a single in the third Stoffel gave up a lead-off single in the fourth, followed by a one-out walk. But he got a grounder to third baseman Ragan Pinnow for a fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning and a fly ball to center to strand the tying run at second.

The Wildcats added a run in the fifth when Jake Bergmanis drew a bases-loaded walk to make it a two-run game, and after the Cardinals put runners at first and second with one out in the sixth Stoffel induced a 1-6-3 double play to get out of the inning.

River Falls got another run without a hit in the bottom of the sixth when Adam Feyereisen drew a bases-loaded walk. Jackson Cleveland came on for Stoffel to pitch the top of the seventh and walked the first batter he faced before the Wildcat defense closed the door.

Feyereisen ran down a ground ball up the middle from his shortstop position, stepped on second and threw to Stoffel at first base for a slick double play before right fielder Braden Mork made a circus catch in foul territory to end the game. Mork caught the ball at full speed just before the right field foul line fence and promptly did a perfect tuck and roll over the waist-high barrier for the final out.

“I honestly had no idea where the fence was,” Mork said. “It was a just a complete guess. I was running as fast as I could, and then the fence was right there and I just flipped over it. It happened so fast. Then to see my teammates come over and greet me, it was awesome.”

Stoffel was the first one there to help Mork back onto the playing field.

“That was awesome,” Stoffel said. “I love how he just flipped over the fence. He went over and I was like, oh wow!”

Cleveland and Jaden Schwantz had two hits each in the win while Feyereisen walked twice and stole a base.

The Wildcats, now 13-3 overall, will wrap up the regular season next week with a pair of non-conference games at St. Paul Highland Park Monday, May 20 and home against Tartan Tuesday, May 21. They’ll also be keeping and eye on the Cardinal’s two-game series with Eau Claire North.

“We’re rooting for North,” Stoffel said.  

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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