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RF Legion baseball team defeats top two teams in the state, advances to Championship Tuesday

By Reagan Hoverman

The River Falls Legion Post 121 baseball team has knocked ou the two top-ranked teams in the state during the 2022 Wiscon – sin AA Legion State Tournament and has punched a ticket to Championship Tuesday, Aug. 2, and will play Holmen with a trip to the state championship on the line.

The Wisconsin Legion State Tournament is a five-day double-elimination tournament. Going into the playous, Holmen and Rhinelander were ranked as the #1 and #2 teams in the state respectively.

River Falls played and defeated Rhinelander in the first round of the tournament 3-0 and then on day two of the playous River Falls defeated Holmen 10-8 to advance to day three. Teams such as Rhinelander and Holmen have loaded rosters full of high school players, recent graduates and college players. River Falls head coach Ryan Bishop spoke about the matchups and victories against those two teams.

"We're playing a lot of those teams with older players and college players. We're not supposed to beat those teams on paper," Bishop said. "It's been fun to see our guys throw those unwritten boundaries out the door and play hard for each other and leave it all on the field. Things work out when you play like that." The opening game against Rhinelander was one of the toughest of the season. Their ace starting pitcher was on the mound and had just finished his freshman season playing college baseball at UW-Platteville.

River Falls sent junior Eli Condon to the mound, their best pitcher on the legion roster. Condon went toe-to-toe with the Rhinelander ace and pitched a complete-game shutout. Bishop spoke about that victory.

"That was a great win for us," Bishop said. "We were fortunate to execute a few things, score a couple of runs and our pitching and defense did their part. It was a great game." After knocking ou the second-ranked team in the state, River Falls advanced to day two and knocked ou the top-ranked Holmen legion team. Holmen went into that game with a 30-4 overall record for the season.

"That was an electric atmosphere on Saturday night here," Bishop said. "It was the late game and it was a back-and-forth battle and our guys did a nice job picking each other up and never quitting. It was a lot of fun." Cayden Mueller pitched the second game for River Falls and pitched five innings against one of the best lineups in Wisconsin. Jaren Schwantz pitched the sixth and seventh innings and recorded a save in the 10-8 victory.

River Falls lost its day three game against Beloit 9-0 and moved to the losers' bracket. On day four, River Falls defeated Fort Atkinson 5-4 in a thrilling win-or-go-home game. The victory advances River Falls Post 121 to Championship Tuesday where they will have a rematch with Holmen. Bishop spoke about what this magical postseason run has done for his group of players.

"We're just so proud because these guys have continued to fight, get better and continue to learn," Bishop said. "Whatever happens, happens and good things are happening because they've been doing the things we've been working so hard on." All three teams remaining including Riv – er Falls, Holmen and Beloit have one loss in the double-elimination tournament. On Tuesday, Aug. 2, River Falls will have a rematch with Holmen in the penultimate game of the bracket. The winner of that game will face Beloit for the state championship.

Because River Falls used all of their top pitchers on the stau to get to Championship Tuesday, there aren't many arms available for the Holmen semifinal game. According to Bishop, his top one through four starters are all ineligible for the game Tuesday.

That means River Falls will likely do some sort of pitching by committee in an attempt to advance to the title game Tuesday night against Beloit. Bishop spoke about his

See RF LEGION, Page B-3

The River Falls Legion Post 121 team gathers down the third-base line and listens to head coach Ryan Bishop speak after River Falls defeated Holmen, the top-ranked team in the state, to advance to the semifinals. The 10-8 victory was River Falls’ second victory against a top-five team in the state in two days. Photo courtesy of River Falls Baseball RF Legion

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pitching stau being dwindled as they get to Championship Tuesday.

"We're behind the 8-ball with pitching, there is no doubt about that," Bishop said. "Everybody eligible to throw will be ready to go. You just hope if you get to this point that there are enough arms to throw strikes and give us a chance." Bishop anticipated that Holmen will throw another one of its college baseball players on the roster. Beloit's ace is eligible and will be waiting for the winner of River Falls/Holmen in the championship game.

“We don’t have our one through four pitchers," Bishop said. "We're down to our closer and bullpen arms. When you get to this point, we just have to be the best we can be tomorrow with what we have available." While River Falls will certainly not be fa – vored on Championship Tuesday because of the lack of available starting pitching, Bish – op stated that it's a special feeling to know that his group is playing on the last day of the baseball season with a chance to win a state title.

"It's a pretty special opportunity," Bishop said. "We're excited to see where that takes us tomorrow and the coaches are just super proud of the guys making it to this final day. A lot of heart goes into that and when you start playing for each other, good things can happen." River Falls will square ou against Hol – men in a win-or-go-home game that is slated to begin at 4 p.m. The winner of that contest will face Beloit in the state title game at 7 p.m.

August 2, 2022