Defending champs Fish open season this weekendArea News
-- One thing this certain after winning a state championship — you will have a target on your back the following season. That’s what the River Falls Fighting Fish face when they open the 2012 season this Saturday, May 5, at 1 p.m. at the high school field against the Blaine Fusion.
By: Bob Burrows - River Falls Journal, Pierce County Herald
One thing this certain after winning a state championship — you will have a target on your back the following season.
That’s what the River Falls Fighting Fish face when they open the 2012 season this Saturday, May 5, at 1 p.m. at the high school field against the Blaine Fusion.
Player-manager Josh Eidem said the team is up to the challenge.
“Our team played with a little bit of a chip on its shoulder last year, and it’s still there,” he said. “We’ve heard some whispers that maybe 2011 was a fluke. Our guys know that we earned every bit of that state championship last year, but if we have to do it again this year to prove it, then so be it. This isn’t a team that has been spending the last year sitting on its laurels.”
The Fish, 2011 Wisconsin Baseball Association and St. Croix Valley Baseball League champions, open the 2012 with basically the same roster as a year ago, with the exception of 48 year-old Joe Paatalo, a 30-year veteran of town baseball who Eidem said is going into “semi-retirement.”
“He’s certainly earned it,” Eidem said. “His leadership and experience through nearly 30 years of town baseball was invaluable over the past few summers as our ball club really came together. He was the team sage, which may sound cliché, but the younger guys really did value his guidance and look up to him. That will be a hard element to replace.”
While Eidem said there’s still a chance Paatalo will don a Fish uniform a few times this summer, plenty of familiar faces return, including former Wildcat and American Legion Post 121 players J.P. Feyereisen and Colin Pechacek, as well as their former teammate, Nate Soley, who are currently playing college ball at UW-Stevens Point, UW-Stout and Lakeland College, respectively.
“J.P. will be a great full-time addition to our pitching staff, and gives us a fourth A-quality starting pitcher alongside Rick Wells, Matt Walker, and Dan Morgan,” Eidem said. “Pechacek and Soley will share time in a corner outfield spot alongside Clint Kempf and Brian Giebel.”
Eidem said Tyler Hunter returns from a summer spent in Rochester, and Spencer Kempf and Brad Erdrich will add more youth and depth to the team.
Marty Herum, currently the clean-up hitter at UW-Whitewater, is also slated to return, as is slugger Joel Shaffer, MVP of last year’s WBA State Finals.
“They will anchor the middle of the lineup,” Eidem said. “You won’t find two better hitters in all of Wisconsin outside Miller Park than those guys.”
Following Saturday’s season opener the team will host its second annual “Fishstock” from 5-9 p.m. at Lazy River Bar and Grill to celebrate the start of another season.
The Fish will play Friday, May 11, at the Osseo Merchants before another home game Sunday, May 13, against the Isanti Redbirds.