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River Rats clinch WBA playoff berth

Hudson's Mitch Lewis gets under the tag of River Falls' catcher Tyler Hunter to score a run during a three-run sixth inning for the River Rats in a St. Croix Valley Baseball League game in River Falls last Saturday. Hudson went on to a 9-6 victory over the Fighting Fish, and followed it up with a 4-2 victory over Hager City Sunday to clinch a berth in the Wisconsin baseball Association playoffs. (Hudson Star-Observer photos by Bob Burrows)1 / 3
Hudson's Paul Johnson (12) is greeted by teammate Andy Edholm (33) after scoring from second on a base hit by Mitch Lewis for the River Rats' final run of the game in the ninth inning of their 9-6 win at River Falls last Saturday.2 / 3
Hudson starting pitcher Travis Borowicz fires a pitch to the plate in the sixth inning of the River Rats' 9-6 victory over the River Falls Fighting Fish last Saturday in River Falls.3 / 3

The Hudson River Rats took care of business over the weekend, winning both their St. Croix Valley Baseball League games to clinch a berth in the Wisconsin Baseball Association playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Hudson needed to win at least one of its final four games to become playoff eligible and accomplished that with a 9-6 win over the River Falls Fighting Fish last Saturday in River Falls. They assured themselves of a spot in the playoffs by picking up their ninth league win of the season with a 4-2 victory over the Hager City Skeeters Sunday at Grandview Park.

Hudson, now 9-4 in SCVBL play, will try and improve its playoff seeding when they wrap up the regular season Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the New Richmond Millers (7-6) and Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Elmwood Expos (5-8).

The WBA semifinal round is set for Aug. 9-11 with 32 teams competing in 8-team brackets at Altoona, Coon Valley, Osceola and Rib Lake. The state finals will be played Aug. 16-18 in Osceola.

The River Rats won a WBA state title in 2000 while also qualifying for the postseason in 2002, 2003, and six years straight from 2005-10.

Last Saturday at River Falls, all nine Hudson starters had at least one hit while starting pitcher Travis Borowicz struck out seven and allowed just two earned runs over eight innings in a 9-6 River Rat win.

Hudson player-manager Jason Hollar set the tone early by hitting a lead-off home run in the top of the first and finished the day with three hits, including a double, while Andy Edholm contributed three hits, including a double, and scored twice.

Hudson snapped a 1-1 tie with three runs in the top of the third on a bases-loaded single by Derek Krumrei that drove in a pair of runs and an RBI single by Chris Dent.

The River Rats added three more in the top of the sixth inning. Mitch Lewis and Edholm had back-to-back singles and Lewis came around to score on a base hit by Brent Blegen before Austin Booher doubled to drive in Edholm. Dent delivered a two-out single to plate Blegen for his second RBI of the game and extend Hudson's lead to 8-2.

The River Rats tacked on another run in the top of the ninth when Paul Johnson singled, stole second and scored on a base hit by Lewis.

River Falls chased Borowicz in the bottom of the ninth when they scratched out four runs on just two hits. A walk, an error and two hit batsmen by reliever Edholm contributed to the Fighting Fish rally before Johnson came on to get a fly ball to left to end the game.

Johnson got the start Sunday at home against Hager City and went eight innings, allowing just one earned run on three hits while striking out six to earn the victory. Brian Sparstad gave up one run on one hit in the ninth to earn the save.

"Paul pitched extremely well, controlling the tempo of the game along with silencing the Skeeter hitters," Hollar said. "He took a shutout into the eighth inning when Hager City put together back-to-back hits and put their only run on the board."

Edholm finished with three hits, including a pair of triples, and drove in two runs to lead Hudson at the plate while Blegen had two hits and two RBI.

"Blegen and Edholm had good days at the plate against a tough lefty pitcher, driving in all four of our runs," Hollar noted. "Brent Blegen also played fantastic defense at third base, making some very tough plays and getting us out of some jams throughout the day."

Lewis singled twice and scored a run while Hollar contributed a triple, walk and two runs scored in the victory.

Hollar said it felt good to wrap up a playoff berth after losing a pair of SCVBL games the weekend before.

"This was a nice bounce back weekend for us," he said. "And it felt good to lock up a playoff spot, which was one thing we set out to do at the beginning of the year."

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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