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River Rats eye return to playoffs

Hudson right fielder Andy Edholm makes diving attempt at a fly ball in the River Rats’ St. Croix Valley Baseball League game against the Menomonie Eagles last Saturday at Grandview Park. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Bob Burrows)1 / 2
First-year River Rats’ shortstop Hunter Frey throws to first after tracking down a grounder behind second base in Hudson’s St. Croix Valley baseball League game against the Menomonie Eagles last Saturday at Grandview Park. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Bob Burrows)2 / 2

Five games into their 15th season, the Hudson River Rats are sitting one game below .500 in the St. Croix Valley baseball League as they try to return to the Wisconsin Baseball Association playoffs for the second straight year.

The River Rats, who went 10-5 in SCVBL play in 2013, slipped to 2-3 this season after losing to last year’s WBA state semifinalists Menomonie last Saturday. They’ve also had a pair of SCVBL games rained out while picking up a pair of nonleague victories over the Eau Claire Bears.

Hudson’s SCVBL wins have come against Spring Valley, 12-2, in their league opener May 31, and Bay City, 9-1, June 15.

“I have been really impressed with the team even though our record is not what I would like it to be,” player-manager Jason Hollar said. “We are way ahead of last year’s pace in scoring runs and we have proven we can swing the bat well. We have the potential to score a lot of runs but our defense needs a little work. I'm confident we can clean that up and be competitive in the SCVBL this year.”

Currently the River Rats are in second place in the Red Cedar Division of the SCVBL behind the 5-0 River Falls Fighting Fish. The Elmwood Expos are third at 2-7 followed by the Spring Valley Hawks at 0-7.

Menomonie leads the Eau Galle Division with a record of 6-0 while the Prescott Pirates are on top of the St. Croix Division at 7-0. Hudson’s losses this season have come against Ellsworth (5-2), Prescott and Menomonie.

Hollar returns for his eighth season as a River Rat and second as player-manager. Among the other veterans returning are catcher Mitch Lewis, outfielder Andy Edholm, third baseman Brent Blegen and second baseman Chris Dent.

“As long as these guys are on the field I feel that the Rats can play with the best the SCVBL has to offer,” Hollar said.

Veteran Paul Johnson returns to anchor a deep Hudson pitching staff.

“Other guys we are counting on this year to log innings on the mound are veterans Brian Sparstad, Travis Borowicz, and second year Rat Austin Booher,” Hollar said. “All these guys were the key to the Rats 2013 run to the playoffs.”

Hollar said the River Rats are looking forward to having former Hudson Raider Kellen Pearson back on the field after he missed most of last summer due to injury.

“We are extremely happy to have him as he is one of the most solid baseball players I have played with,” Hollar said. “He can do it all -- hit, field, and pitch when called upon.”

Other newcomers include recent HHS graduate Hunter Frey and Hill-Murray grad Andrew Traeger.

“They have given the lineup more pop and defensive stability,” Hollar said. “They also bring youth and enthusiasm to the team.”

Hudson will travel to Hager City (2-4) this Saturday and Plum City (3-5) Sunday for a pair of 1 p.m. games before the SCVBL All-Star Game at the brand new First National Bank of River Falls Field at Hoffman Park in River Falls Saturday, July 5. They resume SCVBL play Saturday, July 12, at St. Croix Falls (4-2) before visiting River Falls Sunday, July 13.

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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