The River Falls and Somerset American Legion Senior baseball teams have qualified for their state tournaments.
River Falls will be playing in the Class AA state tournament in Merrill, starting on Friday. Somerset will be playing in the Class A state tournament, which will be played in Black River Falls, beginning on Wednesday.
River Falls qualified for state by winning all three of its games in the Menomonie Class AA regional tournament over the the weekend. River Falls started the tournament with an 11-3 win over Menomonie. In the second round River Falls eliminated Spooner 7-4.
River Falls met up with Menomonie again in the championship game. River Falls took the title with a 7-4 win.
River Falls opens state tournament play on Friday with a 2 p.m. game against Milton. River Falls will play its second game of the tournament on Saturday.
Somerset swept its games in the Class A regional tournament in Bruce. Somerset opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over Bruce, with Jared Dettmann throwing a three-hitter.
Somerset’s bats took charge in the second round, in a 10-7 win over Chetek. Zach Warren’s three-run homer was the big hit of the game for Somerset.
Pitching prevailed for Somerset in the third round. Nick Dvorak crafted a two-hit shutout as Somerset beat Prescott 9-0.
That put Somerset into Sunday’s championship game against Bruce. The game was tied 5-5 in the seventh when Somerset’s Cody Joiner launched a two-run homer in the top of the seventh.
Sean Conrad pitched a perfect bottom of the seventh to complete Somerset’s 7-5 win.
Somerset will open the Class A state tournament on Wednesday, facing Northern Door County at 1:30 p.m. at Don Halverson Field in Black River Falls.
Somerset will play its second game in the double-elimination tournament on Thursday.
Six players from St. Croix County made a significant impact in the victory for the North team in the 2010 Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Star Game at Titan Stadium in Oshkosh on Saturday.
The North won the Large School game 22-20 in overtime. Local players on the North squad included Ben Wunrow of River Falls, Michael Bennett and Chas Larson of Hudson and Rob Wendt, Rocky Larson and Luke Buerkley of Somerset.
Somerset coach Bruce Larson was the head coach of the North team. Hudson coach Adam Kowles was an assistant coach, as were Somerset assistant coaches John Rivard and Jeremy Kerg.
Wendt and Larson were the only local players on the North offense. Larson was the most effective of the three quarterbacks for the North team in the game. Larson was chosen by the coaching staff to direct the team in overtime, which led to the winning touchdown.
Wendt did an excellent job blocking in the game. The South team was stacked in the middle of the defensive line, but the North blockers were able to open holes consistently through the game.
Wunrow was one of the standouts in a superb North defensive effort. Wunrow’s quickness off the ball put him in the South offensive backfield on a number of plays. The South was expected to have a great passing game, but it rarely materialized because of the pass rush generated by the North defense.
Larson was used as a defensive end and outside linebacker. That was a pivotal role in keeping the extremely fast South halfbacks from getting to the outside.
Buerkley and Bennett played in the defensive secondary. The secondary got tested many times during the game, but came up big time after time. Buerkley usually lined up against one of the taller South receivers. Bennett was used at free safety, where he was the last line of defense against the deep passing attack.
Rocky Larson wants to be a college football coach. In a few days the 2010 Somerset High School graduate will begin his coaching career.
Larson will be quarterbacking the North team in the 2010 WFCA All-Star Game on Saturday. A few days later he will join the UW-River Falls football coaching staff, even before he starts his freshman year of college.
Larson is the son of Somerset football coach Bruce Larson, who is head coach for the North team in Saturday’s state All-Star Game.
It’s clear that Rocky would love to play football at the college level, but his body isn’t capable of taking that sort of pounding any more. Throughout his high school career he played with significant back pain, which required injections every few months.
He began having back problems as a freshman, when he was already playing on the varsity. He became a starter for the Spartans as a sophomore. That was the year he found out he was born with an extra vertebrae in his back. That was the source of his pain and he understands that he will need surgery some day to deal with the problem
With playing football ruled out, Rocky began pursuing his career goal of becoming a coach. Rocky said he decided he wanted to become a coach when he was a sophomore and you could see it in his actions. He was like a coach on the field, helping the coaches to make play calls with his input from what he was seeing on the field.
Rocky’s instincts for coaching go back further that this. It seems like he has always been at his dad’s side, absorbing whatever he could about football. He said seeing his dad on the phone every night, talking to parents and other coaches, gave him a rare perspective on what it takes to be a successful coach.
“The X’s and O’s aren’t the biggest part of the game. You’ve got to get the family bond,” he said about getting the players to buy into the plan the coaches are presenting. “If you don’t get that, you don’t win.”
Rocky said one of the biggest factors in his decision to become a coach was seeing the impact coaches can have on a kid’s life.
“My dad has so much impact, not only with his teaching, but his coaching,” Rocky said.
Coach Larson said he thinks his son has the tools to succeed as a coach.
“He’s lived it. He’s got a pretty good understanding of what’s going on,” Coach Larson said. “He’s patient and he works well with young kids.”
Rocky said he enters his coaching career with a better knowledge of offense, but he plans to become a defensive coach at the college level. He will start his coaching career as a special teams assistant coach at UW-River Falls, breaking down films of opposing teams’ special teams.
One of the people most excited about Rocky’s move to the coaching ranks is UW-River Falls head coach John O’Grady. O’Grady is entering his 22nd season as the Falcons’ head coach. O’Grady said he’s as excited about recruiting Larson as he is about any top-level playing recruit.
“He has an advanced knowledge of the game,” O’Grady said. “He knows what coaching life is like.”
O’Grady said he recruited Larson all along with the intention of having him become part of the coaching staff. Putting a freshman on the coaching staff is rare, but it has been done before. O’Grady did it a decade ago when a freshman receiver had a damaged shoulder and couldn’t continue as a player. That freshman was Jeremy Kerg, who coached for eight years while doing his undergraduate and graduate work at River Falls. Kerg was then hired as a guidance counselor in Somerset, where he is beginning his third year in that role.
An interesting story surfaced in Milwaukee last week about a 48-inch musky that was caught on Government Pier out of Lake Michigan.
There were several mysteries that arose out of landing of the lunker. Who caught the fish? What happened to the fish after it was caught? Most importantly, how did the fish get to the Milwaukee area. There have been no reports of musky in this part of Lake Michigan in many years.
The young man who caught the fish came forward last week. He said he considered releasing the fish and is a proponent of catch-and-release fishing. The young man has dealt with unemployment and other issues, as have many of the people who fish that location. When he saw how the fish could feed a number of people, he decided to do the honorable thing and gave it to his fellow fishermen.
“I guess I thought it was the kind thing to do,” he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The bigger question is how the musky got into the Milwaukee bay. It was determined from photos that this was a Great Lakes spotted muskellunge.
DNR experts guessed that it might be one of the muskies released in the Green Bay area. Muskies have been stocked around the Green Bay area since 1989, but they said they’ve never seen a musky travel this far from its release point.
There is also the possibility the musky came from a tributary that feeds into the lake.
It will be interesting to see if this causes the DNR to explore stocking muskies further down the coast from Green Bay. Perhaps the water quality in Lake Michigan has improved enough where it can sustain bigger game fish. From the photos of this fish, it certainly thrived and was a healthy specimen.
Professional sports would not be the same without the changes George Steinbrenner caused.
Steinbrenner, who died Tuesday, was the principal owner of the New York Yankees for the past 37 years. It was his actions during the infancy of baseball’s free agent system, that changed the level at which professional athletes are paid.
Steinbrenner was the type of owner you loved if he was leading your team. He shelled out money with the goal of making more money. He knew every signing wasn’t going to work out. Some owners sign one big name player and when it doesn’t work out, they use that as their rationale for never signing another player.
By spending money the way he did, Steinbrenner forced other owners to up the ante. He could afford a team of all-stars, so other teams had to play their best players at an equal scale to keep them away from Steinbrenner. You think the Twins would be paying Joe Mauer the millions he received if the Yankees weren’t a looming presence awaiting his free agency? Guess again.
When baseball started paying the way it did, it forced the owners in other sports to escalate their salary scales too. Players in the NFL and NBA should be just as thankful as Major League Baseball players are.
Steinbrenner knew he was hated by a large cross-section of American baseball fans. It didn’t bother him. He knew that winning breeds jealousy. He loved to win, saying it was as important to him a breathing. So if fans hated him, it was out of jealousy because of the continued success that his spending brought to the Yankees.
To Yankee fans he was known as “The Boss.” That is a fitting nickname, because nobody impacted the overall baseball structre in the past 37 years more than George Steinbrenner.
With sports a bit less hectic during the summer, it offers time to work with other pursuits. One of the pursuits that my wife and I enjoy is flowers.
What started eight or nine years ago with one or two pots of flowers has mushroomed into beds and beds of flowers all around our house and yard.
The great thing about flowers is they can be as low maintenance as you would like them to be. We started out with a few iris bulbs and a couple pots of daylilies. Lilies remain the staple in our beds, making up probably three-fourths of our total flowers. There are so many varieties of flowers, that others just seem to hop into our shopping carts.
My wife is the strategist in placing the flowers once they’ve been purchased. I like to refer to her as the brains and myself as the brawn. The perimeter of our house is nearly full with flower beds and there seems to be one more bed added to our backyard every year.
One of the joys of growing flowers is watching and waiting for the flowers to bloom for the first time each year. Did the colors of the different plants mesh like you’d hoped? Will they have to be thinned before the next season? Is there room to add more flowers into that bed?
Perennials make up the vast majority of our flowers. They are really as much, or as little, work as you want to make them. Pop them into the ground and most of them are pretty self-sustaining. More effort can be put into them of course, but generally when it fits into your schedule.
The names they give flowers adds to the entertainment. Some of our favorite varieties of lilies include “Bela Lugosi,” “Wild Horses” and “Strawberry Candy.”
My favorite part is the vastness of the colors available. Seemingly, you can find any and every color in the rainbow in flowers. Going into the yard on a summer morning and seeing a beautiful flower open for the first time in the season is something to behold.