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River Rats knock off defending state champs

The Hudson River Rats battled back from a 7-1, fifth-inning deficit to the defending Wisconsin Baseball Association state champion Menomonie Eagles last Friday night in Menomonie to force extra innings and pull out an 11-10 victory at Wakanda Park and stay one game above .500 in St. Croix Valley Baseball League play.

Kellen Pearson tied the game, 9-9, with a two-run double in the top of the ninth and Tyler Dierke, who pitched nine innings in relief of starter Austin Booher, drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the 14th before Paul Johnson shut the door on the Eagles in the bottom of the 14th after allowing a leadoff single to earn the save by striking out the final batter of the game.

Hudson trailed 7-1 in the fifth inning before closing the gap to 7-6 with a five-run sixth. Trailing 9-7 in the top of the ninth, Pearson it a ball to the left-center field gap to drive in two runs and tie the score, 9-9.

Hudson went up 10-9 in the top of the 11th but the Eagles answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning to stay alive. An Eagle error gave Dierke the opportunity to drive in the go-ahead run in the top of the 14th.

"Overall, the team had contributions from pretty much everybody who played," field manager Jason Hollar said. "In 14 innings we did not commit an error and had notable defensive performances from Derek Krumrei (SS), Chris Dent (2B) and Brent Blegen (1B)."

Blegen hit an opposite field home run late in the game while Hollar helped his team's cause by going 3-for-6 with three RBI and a run scored. Pearson finished with two hits and three RBI while Ben Christensen, Andy Edholm and Mitch Lewis all had three hits, scored twice and drove in a run.

Dierke earned the win on the mound, allowing just three runs on six hits in nine innings of relief before getting the game-winning hit in the 14th.

The River Rats, now 6-5 overall, 4-3 in SCVBL play, are off until this Saturday, July 6, but three Hudson players -- Booher, Johnson and Edholm -- will represent the team at the SCVBL All-Star Game this Friday night, July 5, at 7:30 p.m. at Citizen's Field in New Richmond.

"These guys have been crucial to the success of the Rats as they have been key contributors and have also been at every game this year," said Hollar, who will also serve as manager of one of the all-star teams.

Hudson will host the St. Croix Falls Bandits in a make-up game this Saturday, July 6, at 1 p.m. at Grandview Park. The game was originally scheduled for June 23 but was canceled due to storm damage at Grandview Park. Sunday, July 7, the River Rats will host the Spring Valley Hawks at 1 p.m. before visiting Oakey Park in Osceola Wednesday, July 10, for a 7:30 p.m. game against the Osceola Braves.

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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