SPOONER– The 2019 WBA playoffs open on Friday night, Aug. 9, at four locations around the state: Spooner, Altoona (Eau Claire Bears), Haugen (Knights), and Rib Lake (Interwald). Thirty-two teams are selected for tournament play by finishing in the top half of their respective leagues, and the remaining three to four spots are given to teams at .500 win pct. that did not finish in the top half.
Host teams are determined by a bidding process at the WBA annual meeting in April and receive an automatic berth to the tournament. This will be the first-ever WBA playoff held in Spooner.
The WBA board meets to seed teams and determine the brackets, which took place on August 1 in Eau Claire. Each tournament site has two brackets with four teams, seeded 1-4, and the winner of each bracket moves on to the eight-team state finals. The final eight teams are then seeded according to win percentage and overall seed, and then game times are selected.
The 2019 state finals are hosted by the St. Croix Valley Baseball League in Menomonie this year, August 16-18. The finals location rotates amongst the six member leagues and the league determines who will host. The Independent League will be scheduled to host the 2020 state finals, which will be determined at the annual meeting in January 2020.
#1 Spooner (11-1, 1st Independent League)
Spooner completed the three-peat of Indy League Titles in 2019, after compiling an 11-1 record in league and 16-3 overall. Chad Patko (.532) leads a trio of three hitters over the .450 mark; Gustafson (.524) Davidson (.463) to pace the Cardinals attack. The pitching staff has seen some of their best performances in recent memory with a 2.47 team ERA . The staff has five pitchers over 20 IP on the year and has been led by workhorse Mark Nauertz (49.1 IP 3.10 ERA). AJ Buchmann tossed a no-hitter against the Hornets on 7/21.
The team is led primarily by players in their 20s with only two players on the roster over age 30. The Cardinals mix power and speed along with a sharp defensive game to limit teams. The Cardinals advanced to the Final Four in 2017 and lost in the second round of the 2018 tournament.
#4 New Richmond (9-9, 6th SCVBL)
The New Richmond Millers snagged a WBA “at-large” bid after winning their last five games of the year over a week’s span. New Richmond is making their first playoff appearance since 2013. The offense is led by Jon Will (.349 avg.) and Caleb Manecke (.319 and 3 HR). Manecke was voted as the team’s MVP for the season. The Millers pitching staff is led by Dante LaDuke (49 IP, 3.51 ERA) and Coleman Roskam (36 IP 5.94 ERA). LaDuke was voted as the team’s top pitcher. New Richmond (12-14 overall) played a tough league and non-league schedule to prepare them for a possible playoff run.
#3 Whittlesey (8-4, 4th Dairyland)
Whittlesey hails from the large Dairyland League, located in the east-central part of the state. The Reds are perennial playoff qualifiers and finished with a respectable 8-4 record in league play. The team has a blend of long-time veteran players and up-and-coming young players. They have several members from various families in the area (located near Rib Lake) to form a close team.
#2 Menomonie (12-6 3rd SCVBL)
The Eagles have enjoyed their summer playing all-around good baseball. They have found different ways to win ball games. Some with their pitching, others with their defense, and a few with their offense.
Brett Lechler and Jace Kressin have paced the pitching staff all summer, starting every game they have appeared in. James Palmer is the most improved from the pitching staff, making strides every time he has taken the mound. Brandon Bohl, Patrick Riewer, Jake Halling, Drew Worth, and Kyle Hamilton have also contributed on the mound in some shape or form this summer and they round out the Eagles pitching staff.
The defense has been strong up the middle with the leaders being C Mitch Thomas, SS Kyle Hamilton and CF Patrick Riewer.
As for the bats, everyone has had their moments throughout the summer. Dane Helnore leads the team in batting average while Riewer leads the team in home runs.
The Eagles pride themselves on playing for the men with them on the field and ultimately, unselfish baseball.
They also thank the Cardinals and the community of Spooner for having them this weekend!
#1 Ashland Merchants (8-2, 1st Upper 13)
The Ashland Merchants are champions of the Upper 13 League with an 8-2 record. Associated with the W.B.A. since 1977, they are frequent entrants in the semi-finals. A mixture of young and old players are led in hitting by Taylor Stibbe, Tim King, Dan Bennett, and Matt Tarasewicz. Mound duties fall mainly on the right arm of hard-throwing Bob Tyndall. The Merchants look forward to an enjoyable weekend at Spooner Merchant Park.
#4 Hudson (10-8, 5th SCVBL)
The River Rats finished 10-8 in league play this season, good for fifth-place in the tough St. Croix Valley Baseball League. The pitching staff was led by Sam Glade, Ron Donley, and Noah Berger. The top batters this year have been Mitch Lewis, Hunter Frey, Blake Berger, and Jason Hollar.
Defensively, the team is led by shortstop Luke LeMay, infielder Chris Dent, and outfielder Hunter Frey. This is the 20th season for the River Rats, having started up in 2000. They have qualified for the playoffs in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005-2010, and 2013-19. They made the state finals in 2002, 2009, and 2018.
#3 EC Rivermen (13-9, 6th CRBL)
The Eau Claire Rivermen enter the tournament having won their last four CRBL games in a three-day span – a pressurized, must-win scenario in order to qualify for the WBA playoffs.
At 13-9 in the CRBL and 15-10 overall, the Men are a good blend of veteran and young players.
Formed in 2017, the Rivemen squad was born from the Chippewa Falls Lumberjacks, who existed from 1983 to 2016. In total, the franchise has qualified for the WBA tournament every season since 2007. The Eau Claire Rivermen are excited to be in the 2019 WBA tournament and would like to thank Spooner for the efforts in hosting a WBA regional.
#2 Lake Superior Sea Dogs (7-3, 2nd Upper 13)
The Lake Superior Sea Dogs posted a 7-2 record in the Upper 13 League in 2019. They play their home games in Superior and are making their second WBA Playoffs appearance in as many years under the Sea Dogs moniker.
The club, founded as the Proctor (Minnesota) Padres in 2007, has a total of seven previous WBA Playoffs appearances under the Padres, Duluth-Superior Dukes, and Sea Dogs names. Their leading hitters are Mike Karp (.500/.692/.481 OBP/SLG/AVG), Kevin Hendrickx (.500/.444/.444), Pete Atiemo (.394/.500/.333), and Seth Anderson (.333/.359/.308).
Their top pitchers are Jake Lewis (2-0 W-L, 1.40 ERA), Anderson (2-2, 3.00), and Jesse Olson (2-0, 4.50). The 2019 season saw Hendrickx become the fourth player in club history to surpass 500 career plate appearances and Lewis become the club’s leader for career strikeouts (he currently has 353 K’s in 293 innings pitched).
Friday, August 9:
Spooner vs. New Richmond 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 10:
Menomonie vs. Whittlesey 12 p.m.
Ashland vs. Hudson 3 p.m.
Lake Superior vs. Eau Claire Rivermen 6 p.m.
Sunday, August 11:
Winner of game 1 vs. winner of game 2; noon
Winner of game 3 vs. winner of game 4; 3 p.m.
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