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Fish control own destiny

River Falls Fighting Fish pitcher Nate Schurman delivers a pitch to the plate in the Fish's St. Croix Valley Baseball League game against the Osceola Braves Saturday at the high school field. Schurman allowed one hit through eight innings and relief pitcher Ryan Gilbertson worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth as the Fish beat the Braves 3-1. Bob Burrows photo

The River Falls Fighting Fish can lock up their second straight St. Croix Valley Baseball League title with wins over the Menomonie Eagles and St. Croix Falls River Bandits this weekend at the River Falls High School field.

The Fish lost to the Eagles, 3-2, on a suicide squeeze bunt in the bottom of the ninth inning last Wednesday in Menomonie. But they maintained a slim lead in the SCVBL with home wins over the Osceola Braves and Plum City Blues over the weekend.

River Falls sits atop the SCVBL standings with a record of 12-2 while the Prescott Pirates are a half-game behind at 12-3 and Menomonie is still in the hunt with a mark of 10-3.

Regardless of how Prescott and Menomonie fare in the final week of the season, two wins by the Fish make them SCVBL champs for the second year in a row. Games are Saturday at 1 p.m. against Menomonie and Sunday at 1 p.m. against St. Croix Falls.

The Fish received stellar pitching last week from Matt Walker, Nate Schurman and Rick Wells but had just a 2-1 record to show for it.

Walker pitched 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball against Menomonie but the Eagles scored an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh to cut River Falls' lead to 2-1, then scratched out a pair of runs off Fish reliever Dan Morgan in the bottom of the ninth, scoring the winning run on a one-out suicide squeeze.

Walker struck out 10 and walked two while allowing eight Eagle hits while Morgan was tagged with the loss, allowing two earned runs on three hits with one walk and one hit batter.

The Fish's runs came in the third, when Adam Stuessel doubled and scored on a single by Nathan Brom, and in the fifth when Josh Eidem walked and later scored on a base hit by Brian Giebel. Brom accounted for two of the Fish's seven hits in the game.

Saturday against Osceola, Schurman allowed just one hit through eight innings before giving up back-to-back singles to start the ninth. Gilbertson came on with the Fish leading 3-0 and gave up a single to load the bases before hitting a batter to force in a run. He then settled down and struck out the next three batters to preserve the victory.

River Falls took a 1-0 lead on a solo home run by Marty Herum in the third. It added another run in the seventh on a single by Eidem that plated Joe Schaffer, and made it a 3-0 game in the eighth when Giebel singled, moved to second on a single by Gilbertson and scored on a base hit by Clint Kempf.

Sunday Wells struck out 12, walked just one and allowed five hits in a complete-game, 6-1, victory over Plum City. The Blues' only run came on an RBI double by Blues veteran Shaun Miley with one out in the ninth.

The Fish scored a pair of runs in the third on an RBI double by Kempf and a single by Brom. Giebel doubled in a pair of runs and Stuessel had an RBI single to highlight a four-run fifth.

Saturday's home game against Menomonie is Kilkarney Hills Golfers Day. Free rounds of golf and golf trivia games, courtesy of Kilkarney Hills Golf Course, will be part of the action.

Sunday marks the final home game of the season and will be Fighting Fish Fan Appreciation Day. Come for the free raffle, stay for the baseball.

Both games begin at 1 p.m. at the high school field and admission is free.

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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