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WBA Tournament this weekend in River Falls and Ellsworth

The 66th Wisconsin Baseball Association Tournament will be played for the first-time ever in River Falls at brand new First National Bank Park.

However, not all the games will be in RF. One in particular will be in Ellsworth at Bob Young Field in Summit Park. And as the tournament records show, Ellsworth has hosted its fair share of WBA State Tournament games going back to the 1950s and 60s.

To get both Friday quarterfinal games in without going too late, both games will take place in 7:30 p.m., one in River Falls and the other in Ellsworth.

Such an arrangement couldn't have been any better set for the Ellsworth Hubbers as they not only host but to get to play in their first state tourney since 2012. The Hubbers take on Chaseburg-Coon Valley this evening.

"It's very exciting," Hubbers manager Darren Maxwell said. "We should have a good crowd and it's just going like regular season Friday night game here. The only thing different is we have to charge admission."

Admission prices are $3 for individuals and $5 for families.

Maxwell said playing host to a tournament game came up only a month ago and there were no guarantees they were going to host.

"Josh Eidem with River Falls asked if we were willing to host because there is a time limit for how long they can play in the evenings," Maxwell said. "We said we would but the fact we would play in Ellsworth is by pure luck of the draw at the seeding meetings."

Over in River Falls, the host Fighting Fish also get to participate in WBA State. Their quarterfinal contest is vs. Prescott. 

The winners from tonight's contests will play against each other at approximately 4 p.m. Saturday.

The other quarterfinal games to be played early Saturday pit Whittlesey against defending state champion Brill followed by LaCrescent, Minn. vs. the Haugen Knights. Action begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The championship game is at noon on Sunday.

River Falls-Prescott will certainly ben worth the price of admission and tenfold. The Pirates finished with the top record in the St. Croix Valley League with River Falls right behind them. Prescott only loss in league play came against RF but Prescott beat River Falls at state a year ago 1-0. The Pirates strong pitching and defense will be needed again vs. a Fighting Fish squad which scores a combined 33 runs in regional action last weekend.  

Chaseburg-Coon Valley was the champion of the Mississippi Valley League and has a 32-9 overall record. Jesse Servais is the Blues' top pitcher with 2.22 ERA and only nine walks in 59 innings pitched this season. CCV's best hitter is Matt Hoff with a .328 average, 22 RBIs and 19 runs scored.

Maxwell is confident the strong pitrching and defensive effort the Hubbers had last weekend will continue, especially the pitching of Chuck Hewitt. He tossed seven innings of shutout ball last weekend which was crucial in the Hubbers' advancement along with defensive plays like Adam Churchill's outfield throw which put out a Whitehall base runner at home plate in the bottom of the 15th inning. Churchill was the Hubbers draftee from Elmwood for the playoffs.

"He started pitching a couple of years ago and having his best season on the mound," Maxwell said. "He's only given up and handful of walks this year and pitching the ball to where he's keeping teams off balance and making hits we can get quick outs from."

With Hewitt, the Hubbers now have deeper pitching rotations they've looking to develop for several seasons.