By Reagan Hoverman
After splitting games against Wausau West and Tomah on Saturday, April 23, by scores of 10 _ 3 and 10 _ 11 respectively, the River Falls High School Wildcats improved to 6 _ 1 for the season, the best of any team in the Big Rivers Conference.
For head coach Ryan Bishop, there have been considerable positives to take away from the first month of the season. The Wildcats have scored 10 or more runs in five of the seven games this season, including the aforementioned shootout against Tomah. Bishop spoke about the promising start to the season.
“Record _ wise we’re off to a good start,” Bishop said. “We know we have areas to im _ prove, but we also know we’ve seen some really good things to build on. Our coaching staff looks forward to focusing on both of those sides of our team development as the season pro _ gresses.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Wildcats’ performance in the opening portion of the schedule has been the explosive offense, which is quickly putting the Big Rivers Confer _ ence on notice of its dominance.
The Wildcats have relied on veteran hitters including senior Michael Schurman, Ryan Langer and Ragan Pinnow, who have all dis _ played offensive brilliance in the early goings of the 2022 season.
While some of the early _ season non _ confer _ ence pitching has been less than exceptional, River Falls has seen a couple of highly compet _
itive arms that closely resemble what the Wild _ cats will see throughout a majority of the Big Rivers Conference schedule.
“We’ve had some sporadic outbursts of scor _
ing, as expected when facing some early _ season non _ conference pitching,” Bishop said. “The couple high _ end arms we’ve faced have really helped us as coaches and players to truly gauge where we’re at offensively.”
Bishop stated that his team’s approach at the plate has improved in the first seven games and that better execution will follow as soon as River Falls starts facing some of the best pitchers in western Wisconsin when conference play be _
When facing top talent at Division 1 and Di _ vision 2 schools, doing all of the little things and paying attention to the nuances of the game is what separates good teams from great teams. Bishop spoke about his team’s attention to de _
“Our guys are starting to understand and be _
lieve in doing the little things right to take ad _ vantage of the few opportunities you may get against good pitchers,” Bishop said. “Overall, we’ve done a good job executing some of those things which have turned into bigger offensive results.”
With blowout wins against Osceola, Amery and New Richmond, the Wildcats have built confidence in the early goings of the schedule. The Wildcats will look to ride that wave of con _
fidence in the next 10 _ 14 days when they will be playing some of the most important games of the season.
On Tuesday, April 26, and Thursday, April 28, the Wildcats will play Hudson at home and away respectively, in a battle for premium posi _ tion atop the Big Rivers Conference standings as the teams flip the calendar to May. Bishop spoke about the important upcoming conference battles.
“Some huge games coming up starting with a very talented Hudson squad next week,” Bishop said. “Pretty much every Big Rivers team has a couple of college caliber starting pitchers that we’ll face every game. There will be no games off, so to speak. You better bring your best or you will have a tough bus ride home.”
As of Monday, April 25, River Falls is tied atop the conference standings with a 2 _ 0 record in league play and is joined by Chippewa Falls. Hudson currently holds a 1 _ 1 record in the standings after splitting the season series with Eau Claire Memorial less than a week ago.
In addition to Chi _ Hi and River Falls, Eau Claire North has also made some noise in the conference standings with a 3 _ 1 record with the lone loss coming against New Richmond in extra innings on Tuesday, April 12.
Bishop and the River Falls coaching staff ex _ pect the race for the Big Rivers Conference title to be as competitive as ever this season. Accord _ ing to Bishop, there are a handful of teams that are capable of claiming the BRC crown.
“I honestly think five different teams could win the conference this year,” Bishop said. “Whoever does (win the conference), it very well could be with an 8 _ 4 record. That’s the way we all want it to be, and the Big Rivers is as tough and balanced this year as I’ve ever seen it. I think we’ll really grow on the field and in the dugout because of that consistent challenge day in and day out.”
That challenge will begin on Tuesday, April 26, with a home game against the Hudson Raiders. First pitch for that contest is slated for 4:30 p.m.