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The Rats steal the cheese

Hudson River Rats' designated hitter Jason Bast connects for a solo home run in the third inning to give the Rats a 3-1 lead in their semifinal win over Ellsworth in the Hubbers annual tournament Saturday afternoon in Ellsworth. Bast hit four home runs in three games to spark the Rats to the tournament championship. Photo by Bob Burrows

It's only fitting that the River Rats would spoil Ellsworth's Cheese Curd fest.

The Rats hit eight home runs in three games and outscored their opponents 37-5 on their way to a first-place finish at the Ellsworth Hubbers' annual baseball tournament, which is held in conjunction with the community's Cheese Curd Fest each year.

Jason Bast accounted for four of the Rats' home runs, including two in one inning against River Falls in the championship game. Bast's second bomb in the top of the seventh was a grand slam and helped put the finishing touches on the Rats' 12-1 victory over the Fighting Fish.

Recent Hudson High School graduate Tyler Dierke made his debut with the Rats in the title game and pitched a complete game, three-hitter but was clinging to a 2-1 lead after six. Hudson then exploded for 10 runs in the top of the seventh, highlighted by a homer by Joel Shaffer and two long balls by Bast. Paul Ruppert followed Bast's second homer of the inning with a home run of his own to make the final 12-1.

He win was the first for the River Rats against the Fighting Fish in three tries this season.

The Rats reached the championship game by defeating Elmwood, 12-2, Friday night and the host Hubbers, 13-2, on Saturday.

Friday night's affair was a nine-inning league make-up game against the Expos, and the Rats responded with home runs from Shaffer and Brent Blegen and received six innings of three-hit ball from Brian Sparstad to earn the win on the mound.

Sparstad struck out six while limiting the Expos to two runs while Blegen led the Rats at the plate with a 4-for-5 effort.

Bast belted a pair of home runs in Saturday's 13-2 semifinal win over Ellsworth, and Jason Hollar added a double and a triple while Davis Lenzen turned in his second strong start in a row on the mound, throwing five innings to earn the victory.

Hudson, now 9-8 overall, 5-3 in St. Croix Valley League play, will host the St. Paul Mudhens in a non-league game Tuesday, June 30 at 6:15 p.m. before traveling to New Richmond for a big North Division battle Wednesday night, July 1. The Millers are currently 7-3 and in second place in the North Division of the SCVBL.

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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