Wildcats fall to Rebels in home opener

Posted 4/3/24

The River Falls Wildcats baseball team lost their first game of the season to the Champlin Park Rebels at home on Monday by a score of 9-6.

It was a brisk night at First National Bank of River …

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Wildcats fall to Rebels in home opener


The River Falls Wildcats baseball team lost their first game of the season to the Champlin Park Rebels at home on Monday by a score of 9-6.

It was a brisk night at First National Bank of River Falls Field for the Wildcats in their home opener.

Tyler Nelson got the nod for the first start of the season, and he came out firing, retiring the side in order while striking out two in the first inning. He got another K in the second inning retiring the 4, 5 and 6 hitters for the Rebels. Nelson then left the game in favor of Henry who came in for the third and fourth innings.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats’ offense mimicked this line, striking out twice in the first and once in the second and getting sat down in order through the first six batters.

Henry got the first two Rebels quickly in the third, but gave up a double and a walk before striking out the last batter to get out of the inning. River Falls would take the lead in the bottom of the inning which started with back-to-back singles by Cody Olson and Ty Manninen. With two outs and two on, Ben Johnson cleared the bases with a double as the Wildcats took a 2-0 advantage.

Olson got the ball in the fourth and got into some trouble right away after giving up a walk, a double and a hit by pitch to open the frame, all of which would eventually come around to score. Thus, going into the bottom of the inning, the new score read 3-2 in favor of the Rebels.

The Wildcats’ bats came alive though, getting two men in scoring position with one out. Olson helped his own cause by getting the tying run in from third on a perfectly executed bunt.

The fifht inning is where things got away from River Falls as Henry Zimmerman opened the inning by giving up a double and four straight walks to score two. Zimmerman’s fastball was sitting in the mid 80’s, he just had some trouble locating it, and Champlin Park would take advantage, batting around and bringing 10 guys to the plate. The Rebels scored six runs in total and took a commanding 9-3 lead.

The Wildcats did some damage of their own in the bottom of the inning as a single and two walks in the first four batters loaded the bases with one out. A single by Cayden Mueller scored two making it 9-5 with two on, but ultimately, the Rebels struck out the next two and that’s all they would come away with.

River Falls would make another pitching change and only allowed three base runners over the final two innings and striking out four. Unfortunately, Champlin Park would set the next six Wildcats in order, bringing the final score to 9-5.

In what amounted to a chilly home opener, Head Coach Ryan Bishop says the team accomplished what they set out to do in their first game of the season, especially after the short window for practices given how late spring break was and the uncooperative weather over the past week.

“We're just glad to get outside and actually get on the field,” Bishop said. “We're throwing 12 different pitchers this week, and we had it scripted to throw those four guys today. We’ve got four more guys tomorrow and the same on Thursday, and so, there's a lot more at stake this week than the scoreboard.”

In an unusual spring ramp up period, the team will actually have two games in before their first normal varsity practice, which won't happen until Wednesday.

“We don’t have full length batting cages at our high school, and they haven’t been on a baseball field in six months, so this is really their first time getting out there and getting after it. It's almost like scrimmage these first two games, with scripted lineups and pitching rotations,” Bishop said. “So, we're good with where things are at right now. I mean, if we're scoring five runs a game, we're going to win most games.”

Looking forward, River Falls’ first Big Rivers Conference game will come next week at home when they host the Chippewa Falls Cardinals next Tuesday.

“They’ve got a D1 pitcher that we’ll see, and we’ve got some good pitchers lined up to face them, so it should be a good game,” Bishop said. “We got some guys that can do all those little things that make the biggest difference, and they're ready for him regardless of whether we've practiced it a ton yet. We threw in a suicide squeeze tonight, and we haven't even talked about it until right before the game. So, if we can continue to manufacture some runs, we're confident with that we've got a deep enough staff to win ballgames for us.”

River Falls has two more non-conference games this week before then, as they continue their homestand. Next up is the Tartan Titans on Tuesday at 4:30, and then they take on the Superior Spartans on Thursday at 4 p.m. All Wildcats baseball home games are held at First National Bank Stadium.

River Falls Wildcats, Champlin Park Rebels, boys baseball, season opener, Big Rivers