RF softball’s 15-win season is its most since 1981

By Reagan Hoverman
Posted 5/25/23

This year’s River Falls High School softball team has done what no other Wildcat squad had accomplished in more than four decades.

When River Falls recorded the final out of its 9-0 …

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RF softball’s 15-win season is its most since 1981


This year’s River Falls High School softball team has done what no other Wildcat squad had accomplished in more than four decades.

When River Falls recorded the final out of its 9-0 victory at home against Saint Croix Falls on Friday, May 19, it moved the Wildcats to 15-7 overall, the program’s most wins since the spring of 1981.

In the more than four decades since that season, River Falls has won double-digit games just four times – including this year – and the previous record for single-season victories during that stretch was a 12-3 showing in 1989.

For River Falls first-year head coach Matt Smith, the Wildcats’ seemingly sudden rise to prominence is a product of more than just talented players. It’s about everything from the players to the coaching staff to the parents who have dedicated years of their lives to River Falls softball.

“I’m fortunate to have a coaching staff that does a great job and the support from the parents, school, youth association and of course our girls – they’ve been great and have played focused softball this year,” Smith said. “When you look at the body of work, I’m extremely happy with everyone and hopefully they’ve had joy too because it’s not possible without all of them.”

River Falls has drawn from an array of sources to assemble its breakout 2023 campaign, but perhaps no aspect has been more impactful than the first five hitters in the lineup. That includes seniors Lilly Burke and Avery Amidon, juniors Jordan Schwantz and Jordan Torrez and sophomore Alexis Ralston.

Their success near the top half of the order has helped River Falls score seven or more runs in 14 of 22 games this season, including six contests with double-digit offensive production. River Falls has pitched well too, but the top-end hitting has been the catalyst for the program’s most single-season wins since 1981.

“I don’t think Lilly Burke has been out in the last half a week and if anyone is hitting the ball harder than her right now I’d love to see it,” Smith said. “Avery Amidon has been lacing it, Jordan Torrez has been outstanding and (Alexis) Ralston, I joke that she’s the toughest out in Pierce County. Our lineup has been doing a great job in this last stretch of the season.”

The talent on the roster has also been unquestionably aided by the coaching staff, which features new faces – such as Smith and varsity assistant Ryan Scherz – alongside long-time staples of the program.

Now-assistant coach Jess Olson is one of the longest-tenured members on the staff. Olson was the Wildcats’ head coach from 2016 until she stepped down in 2020, and has served as an assistant under two different regimes since then.

“I think one part of the success that often gets overlooked is Jess Olson,” Smith said. “She was a head coach here for a few years and then stayed on staff as an assistant. She has been huge in the transition with the program and her knowledge and steady leadership behind the scenes – without Jess Olson, this success doesn’t happen.”

The Wildcats ended the regular season as winners in two of their final three contests. After a 5-4 victory over New Richmond at home on Thursday, May 18, River Falls thrashed Saint Croix Falls 9-0 on senior night the following evening at First National Bank of River Falls Field.

River Falls went wire-to-wire and scored at least one run in five of seven innings on Friday night. Burke led the charge in the leadoff spot, as she went 4-for-4, scored three runs and tallied one RBI in the blowout victory.

The Saints struggled to find any success against River Falls senior pitcher Ali Laube, who tossed a four-hit complete game shutout. Coach Smith spoke about Laube’s gem, which included four strikeouts and zero walks.

“We wanted to give her the ball on senior night and she threw phenomenally,” Smith said. “She fired strikes and when Ali does that, we’ve been successful. She’s an outstanding kid and competitor who loves the game. Friday night summed up her season.”

The victory put an exclamation point on what was already a special evening. River Falls honored its senior class which includes Avery Amidon, Alisha Latham, Ali Laube, Star Deiss and four-year manager Jake Pederson.

For Smith, the leadership those five seniors have demonstrated throughout the season has been nothing short of exceptional. He detailed how that group has spearheaded the historic success this season.

“The five of them are a great class and it was awesome to honor them on Friday night,” Smith said. “They’ve been phenomenal all year. Their leadership has been a huge part of our season – both on and off the field. They’re an outstanding group and I’m very thankful for them.”

River Falls ended its regular season with a 13-12 walk-off defeat on the road against Eau Claire North on Saturday, May 20. The Wildcats finished the year 15-7 overall and 7-5 in Big Rivers Conference action.

River Falls begins the postseason on the road against Hudson in the first round of the WIAA Division 1 playoffs on Tuesday, May 23. The first pitch for that contest is slated for 5 p.m.

River Falls Softball, Big Rivers Conference, Saint Croix Falls Softball