Eau Claire North wasn’t expecting a one-run, extra-inning game.
The Huskies were going against Rice Lake, a winless team in Big Rivers play who they beat 7-0 on Tuesday.
But this time, they needed a Gabe O’Brien run-scoring double in the bottom of the eighth for a 5-4 win that kept their hopes alive in the Big Rivers Conference championship race.
“Rice Lake always makes me nervous,’’ North coach Bob Johnson said. “We had a good game with them Tuesday and they’re not that bad a team.”
The Huskies (10-3, 5-2 in the Big Rivers) seemed to be coasting along with a 4-0 lead into the sixth inning when the Warriors rallied for four runs to tie it.
And in the seventh, they got two runners on before Carter Hesselman, who came on to hurl the last two innings and get the win, retired the last two batters to get out of trouble.
In the bottom of the eighth, Joe Feck drew a walk leading off and O’Brien drilled a ball to right center to plate the winning run.
“He missed the bunt sign,” Johnson said. “I was not happy with that but I’m happy we won the game.”
Rice Lake first-year coach Steve Fisher treated the loss almost as a moral victory.
“I’m very happy with all the kids,” he said. “They hustled and did not give up. It was a good team effort and I’m very proud of them.”
The Warriors (0-8, 3-9) scored all their runs off North starter Xavier Bembnister, who had pitched five innings of shutout ball coming into the sixth inning.
Bembnister gave up a walk and three singles and left with no one out and the bases loaded. Joe Kroeger drove in one run with a single and another scored on a wild pitch.
Jaxon Vance came on to get a double play, North’s third of the game, to help him get out of the inning. Hesselman struck out five in his two innings of relief.
Johnson was happy with the work of Bembnister, a junior righthander making his first start.
“I was very impressed with him,” Johnson said. “I have to take some blame because the plan was to take him out after five but he was working well. He deserved to get the win.”
Bembnister, who used an effective curveball, allowed six hits in his five innings.
“I was nervous at the beginning but I settled in,” he said. “I could’ve done better, but I did okay. My arm was getting tired by the sixth but I wanted to stay in.”
Lefty Isaac Rohde went the first five innings for Rice Lake before giving way to sophomore Zack Fisher, who did a good job of relief before giving up O’Brien’s winning double in the eighth.
North scored one in the first, then tallied three more in the third with the help of triples by Sam Stange and Cal Fadness, who drove in two runs with his liner to right.
O’Brien was the only Husky with as many as two hits while Rice Lake shortstop Brady Verbsky rapped three singles to lead all hitters in the game.
North hosts Wisconsin Rapids in an 11 a.m. doubleheader Saturday.
NORTH 5, RICE LAKE 4
RICE LAKE (4)
AB-R-H-RBI: Brady Verbsky, ss, 4-1-3-0, Nolan Rowe, c, 3-1-1-0, Riley Strohm, cf, 2-1-0-0, Joe Kroeger, 1b, 2-1-1-1, Callub Paulson, 3b, 3-0-0-0, Isaac Rohde, pl, 2-0-0-0, Matt Juza, 2b, 2-0-0-0, CJ Randall, lf, 1-0-0-0, Jake Harris, lf, 2-0-1-0, Trevon LaPoint. rf. 3-0-1-0, Zack Fisher, 2b/p, 2-0-0-0. Totals 27-4-7-1.
Gabe O’Brien, rf, 4-1-2-1, Carter Hesselman, ss/p, 3-0-1-0, Sam Stange, cf, 2-1-1-0, Gabe Richardson, 3b, 4-0-0-0, Anthony Pogodzinski, 1b, 2-0-1-1, Jaxon Vance, dh/p/ss, 3-1-1-0, Joel Zachow, 2b, 3-1-1-0, Cal Fadness, lf, 3-0-1-2, Joe Feck, c, 2-1-0-0, Keegan Dehnke, ph, 1-0-0-0, Elyjah Johnson, cr, 0-0-0-0, Jacob Kulig, cr, 0-0-0-0. Totals 27-5-8-4.
Rice Lake 000 004 00 — 4 7 2
North 103 000 01 — 5 8 0
E — Verbsky, Randall. LOB — Rice Lake 6, North 10. DP – North 3. 2B – O’Brien. 3B – Stange, Fadness. SB – O’Brien, Verbsky, Stange. Sac – Fisher, Hesselman.
IP H R ER BB SO
Rohde 5 6 4 4 3 3
Fisher, L 2 2 1 1 2 1
Xavier Bembnister 5 6 4 4 3 1
Vance 1 0 0 0 2 0
Hesselman, W 2 1 0 0 1 5
WP – Vance. PB – Rowe. HBP – Stange (by Fisher). T1:58.