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Rats keep playoff hopes alive

Starting pitcher Aaron Frei. Bob Burrows photo1 / 2
River Rats batter Paul Johnson hits a single. Bob Burrows2 / 2

Split pair of SCVBL games to remain at .500

The Hudson River Rats dropped a 5-4, 10-inning heartbreaker to the Hager City Skeeters Saturday in Hager City, but got back to .500 and kept their postseason hopes alive with an 8-4 victory over the Elmwood Expos Sunday at Grandview Park.

Hudson and Elmwood are currently tied for second place in the Eau Galle Division of the St. Croix Valley Baseball League at 6-6 with three league games remaining.

Hudson hosts the division leading River Falls Fighting Fish this Saturday at 1 p.m. and visits the Bay City Bombers next Sunday, July 22, before wrapping up league play at the St. Croix Division leading Prescott Pirates Saturday, July 28. The River Rats must win two of their remaining three games to make the Wisconsin Baseball Association playoffs.

Last Saturday in Hager City, Hudson squandered a two-run lead in the top of the ninth and a one-run lead in the top of the tenth to ultimately fall by a score of 5-4.

Hudson scored a pair of runs in the first and added a run in the ninth on an RBI triple by Brent Blegen to take a 3-1 lead. But Hager City strung together a pair of singles and two fielders' choices to scrape out a pair of runs to tie the score and force extra innings.

The River Rats loaded the bases in the top of the tenth but managed just one run to take a 4-3 lead. Hager City responded with two runs in the bottom of the tenth to steal the victory.

The loss wasted a strong pitching effort by River Rats starter Paul Johnson, who struck out 11 and allowed just three hits over seven innings of work. Andy Edholm took the loss, allowing just three hits over the final two-plus innings but walking two and throwing a pair of wild pitches, the second resulting in the Skeeters' winning run.

Blegen had a double and a triple in the loss as the River Rats outhit Hager City 13-7 but left 14 runners on base.

Sunday against Elmwood, Edholm and Blegen had three hits each and Brian Sparstad threw 4 2/3-innings of solid relief to earn the win in an 8-4 Hudson victory.

Starting pitcher Aaron Frei worked 4 1/3 innings of wildly effective baseball, giving up three runs, two earned, on four hits with four walks, a hit batter and two wild pitches.

Sparstad entered the game in the top of the fifth with one out and runners on first and second after the Expos had scored a pair of runs to trim the River Rats' lead to 5-3. He induced an inning-ending double play and went on to allow just one unearned run on two hits while striking out three the rest of the way.

Edholm was 3-for-5 at the plate with two RBI and two runs scored while Blegen was 3-for-4 with a double and run scored. Mitch Lewis contributed two hits, including a double, while Ben Christiansen, Jason Bast, Derek Krumrei and Johnson added two hits apiece as Hudson finished with 16 hits in the game.

SCVBL Standings

(as of July 15)

Eau Galle Division

Team W L

River F Fighting Fish 10 0

Hudson River Rats 6 6

Elmwood Expos 6 6

Spring Valley Hawks 0 12

St. Croix Division

Team W L

Prescott Pirates 11 2

Ellsworth Hubbers 9 5

Hager City Skeeters 5 8

Plum City Blues 4 9

Bay City Bombers 3 10

Red Cedar Division

Team W L

Menomonie Eagles 9 3

Osceola Braves 8 3

New Richmond Millers 7 6

St. Croix Falls Bandits 3 10

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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