E-S, FC nail down conference titles as teams get ready for playoffs

Tri-County Prep Baseball Review & Preview

Playoffs begin tomorrow Thursday, May 23 for Tri-County prep baseball teams and will be in action with first round, WIAA regional tournament ballgames. From last week Thursday, May 16 to Monday, May 20 teams put the final marks on their regular seasons.

Eleva-Strum (16-8 overall) is a No. 4 seed hosting Wisconsin Rapids Assumption (2-10), the 13 seed in Division 4 with a 5 p.m. start at Spangberg Field in Strum. The No. 14 ranked Cardinals routed No. 10 ranked Blair-Taylor, the only team to have beaten them in Dairyland Conference play this season, by a 7-0 score in Blair on Monday, May 20. Winning pitchers Carter Gunderson and reliever Ty Fjelstad combined for a no hitter against the Wildcats (17-3). Both teams will share the DC title in 2024. Last week Thursday, May 16, the Cardinals swept a doubleheader in Augusta by scores of 10-0 and 16-14 at Jan Krueger Memorial Park.

The second game against the Cards was the Beavers' best effort of the season other than their lone win in '24 over Greenwood back in early April. AHS (1-18) also lost a 12-0 decision to Melrose-Mindoro at home by a 12-0 score on Monday, May 20 to go winless in league play. It was the final regular season home game for seniors Joe Shong, Cashton Leslin and Max TePaske. The Beavers are also a 14 seed taking on No. 3 seed Fall Creek (14-6) at FCHS tomorrow beginning at 5 p.m. The Crickets wrapped-up the Western Cloverbelt Conference title with a 12-6 win Thursday, May 20 at Eau Claire Regis (8-13). Josh Wright was the winning pitcher and FC's top hitters were Ethan Westrate 3-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs, (2 2B, 4 RBI); Logan Gustafson 2-for-3 and Jack Walden had two hits, including a double to go with three RBIs.

With a WCC title secured, Walden, who was a member of FC's last independent team as a freshman before this season, reflected on why he stayed out for baseball in spite of having to commute to Black River Falls to play as a member of a co-op team.

"I think what mostly kept me playing baseball was my love for the game. I've played baseball my entire life, and nothing was going to change that," Walden said. "As the two years of co-oping went on, the team and coaching staff at BRF took us FC players in very quickly. They weren't intimidated or cocky, they were great leaders and good people to look up to. Playing in Black River Falls was different, and it felt odd to only play one "home" game at FC each year we co-oped, but I'm glad that we did. It was a chance for the Fall Creek community to come to a special event and watch a baseball game without traveling over 45 minutes to go see one. And the first time we played at Fall Creek, my sophomore year, I was telling all of the Black River Falls baseball boys that there would be over 200 people at the game. None of them believed me before the game started, but as the first pitch approached, there was more than anyone was expecting there to be. Just knowing that my senior year, hopefully having a full team at Fall Creek, would have this many fans to support us was a huge motivator. I knew that the group that would make our team full again (this year's freshman) would allow us to have Fall Creek's own baseball team, right in time for my senior year. And as the co-op years went by, I told my dad - who was also the FC coaching rep in BRF, which made that time extra special- that ending my senior year at Fall Creek would be a perfect way to send off my high school career. It couldn't have gone any better either."

FCHS head coach Matt Prissel said by sticking to their gameplan the Crickets were able to win the key games vs. Bloomer and Regis the past two weeks that led to the WCC title.

"We didn't change our focus or our mindset, Prissel said. "We stayed true to our offensive, defensive, and pitching philosophies and trusted the process that he had put into place. We played sharp baseball and didn't worry about what might happen, instead we went pitch by pitch and inning by inning and our hope was at the end of the game, we would have made more plays and did what we needed to do to achieve our goals. I am really proud of our team for what they accomplished in earning the conference championship in their first year back in the Western Cloverbelt--they played as a team and achieved as a team! "

Osseo-Fairchild (7-14) closed its regular season last week with some success. O-F won at Stanley-Boyd (8-11) Thursday, May 16 by an 11-10 score. Spencer Osmonson was the winning pitcher with Drew Paulus the save. Colton Williams was 3-for-4 at the plate, Brooks Koxlien, Mason Schmidt, Brogan Korger and Emerick Korger all with two hits. Osseo-Fairchild also blanked Arcadia 3-0 Monday, May 20 in Arcadia. Osmonson was named Player of the Game by WHTL 102.3 radio station as he pitched two hitless innings and went 3-for-4 at the plate with a RBI and a double. Drake Swett was the winning pitcher. O-F's only blemish in the last week as a 9-5 loss to No. 2 ranked Pittsville at home on Friday, May 17. The Thunder trailed early but tied the score at 4-4 in the fifth and only trailed 6-5 in the sixth when the Panthers (21-1) plated three runs. Osmonson homered for the Thunder and Paulus had a two-RBI single. Both Osmonson and Brooks Koxlien both had two hits. This was the final regular season home game for OFHS seniors Osmonson, Korger, Lucas Frase, Ethan Friedel, Griffin Chumas, Blake Thomas and Blake Johnson.

O-F will see Stanley-Boyd again for the third time this season in the first round of the regional at S-B Thursday, May 23 at 5 p.m. The Orioles are the No. 7 seed and Osseo-Fairchild is No. 10 seed. The regional semifinals will be played Tuesday, May 28 and the finals are on Wednesday, May 29, both days with 5 p.m. start times.



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