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Rats gear up for playoffs

Hudson's Paul Ruppert shares a laugh with Bay City's first baseman with River Rats' teammate Craig Jilek at the plate in the second inning of the Rats' 5-0 win over the Bombers in the final St. Croix Valley Baseball League game of the season Sunday at Grandview Park. Hudson will host the defending state champion Eau Claire Bears in a non-league game Friday at 6:15 p.m.

The Hudson River Rats won their final two St. Croix Valley Baseball League games to finish the regular season tied with River Falls for the top spot in the North Division of the SCVBL with a league mark of 12-4, but River Falls' season sweep over the Rats gave the Fighting Fish the division title.

Both teams earned berths in the Wisconsin Baseball Association playoffs, which get under way Aug. 7. Pairings and sites will be released Wednesday. Possible sites for the semifinal round include Rib Lake, Abbotsford, Chippewa Falls and Ellsworth.

The Rats, now 17-9 overall, will wrap up the regular season with a non-league game against the defending WBA state champion Eau Claire Bears Friday at 6:15 p.m. at Grandview Park.

Last weekend, the Rats disposed of the Hager City Skeeters, 12-4, Friday night in Hager City before blanking the Bay City Bombers, 5-0, Sunday at Grandview Park behind a 4-hit, 16-strikeout complete game effort by recent Hudson High School graduate Tyler Dierke.

Dierke improved to 3-0 since joining the Rats at the conclusion of the high school season.

Hudson scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, highlighted by a two-run single off the bat of Jason Hollar.

Paul Ruppert and Craig Jilek were both 2-for-4 with runs scored in the win while Ruppert also drove in the Rats' fifth run of the game with a single in the eighth.

Friday night in Hager City, Joel Schaffer had two hits, including a home run, drove in five runs and scored twice and Jason Bast was 2-for-3 with three RBI and three runs scored in the Rats' 12-4 victory over the Skeeters.

Brian Sparstad picked up the win on the mound, allowing four earned runs on seven hits in seven innings of work before giving way to Davis Lenzen, who pitched two scoreless innings of relief.

Prescott won the overall SCVBL title this season with a league mark of 13-3, including 10-0 against its South Division opponents. River Falls, by virtue of its 7-3 division mark and season sweep of the Rats, was awarded second place while Hudson, who went 6-4 in the division, finished third.

Those three teams, as well as Ellsworth, Menomonie and New Richmond, who all finished 9-7 in the SCVBL, are eligible for the WBA playoffs.

Following Friday's final home game against Eau Claire, the Rats will play a tune-up game at the Plum City Invitational on Saturday before the WBA semifinals Aug. 7-9. The WBA State Championship Tournament is slated for Aug. 14-16 in Haugen.

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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