By Kelly O’Day
How ’bout them Cardiac Kids?
Merrill’s Americal Legion Post 46 baseball team came back from a 5-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning, not once, but twice over their past four games, wrapping up the Medford Regional title with the latest pyrotechnics.
“We made it much more difficult than it needed to be, but in the end they kept fighting and won regional,” Merrill manager Shawn Schultz said. “To me I felt that was important. The last time we hosted state (2008???) we didn’t win regional. I think this brings us into the state tourney in a much better mindset.”
As tourney host, Post 46 is guaranteed a spot at state, but prefers the momentum.
“Going into the last game both teams knew they were playing next weekend, but you could tell it still meant something to them,” Schultz said. “These are two fairly evenly matched teams with strengths in different areas.”
The Merrill boys trailed Rhinelander 6-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning in Sunday’s second game of the championship round. Had Post 46 won the first game the title would have already been theirs, since it reached the round without a loss. But the Rebels survived that comeback attempt by an 8-6 tally, with two Merrill runners in scoring position at the final out on a strike-out.
Jut forward another game.
Each team scored once in the first inning of the final game, and Merrill closed out the third and sixth innings with 6-4-3 and 4-6-3 double plays. But Rhinelander used three hits, two walks and a hit batter to rack up pairs of runs in the fourth and fifth for a 5-1 lead, and tacked on one more in the seventh.
“We had really done nothing,” Schultz said. “We only had two hits all game.”
That changed. Jordan Annis walked and Pascal Paul singled to kick it off, and Ted Porath and Jake Schlueter hit back-to-back RBI singles. A Michael Detert 340-foot single off the fence loaded the bases for Kyle Kubichek’s run-scoring walk, and Lucas Thiel knotted it up at 6-6 with a two-run single.
A strike-out ended the huge rally, and the Rebels were poised to retake the lead in the eighth after a single and an error put a runner on third. But a fly ball to Kubichek, a relay to Paul and a throw to the plate cut down the run. After another miscue, a fly ball put Rhinelander out of the inning.
Lead-off hitter Paul immediately ended it with a home run to left-center.
“Pascal got the winning hit but it took all 13 players to win,” Schultz said.
Paul and Detert hit 2-4. Alex Cordova (10 H, 6 W, 6 ER in 6-2/3 I) started and Porath (1 H, 0 R 1-1/3 I) won.
Champ game #1
A Detert lead-off home run tied it at 1-1 in the second inning of Sunday’s first game, and a Paul two-run single helped Post 46 to a 4-1 edge.
Rhinelander scored five in the third with help from two errors, although the locals cut it to 6-5 on Rothmeyer’s run-scoring single in the fifth. Two more unearned runs in the sixth gave the Rebels an 8-5 margin.
Detert hit a one-out single in the seventh and Jared Rothmeyer doubled with two gone before Kubichek hit Detert home and stole an open second base. But a strike-out ended the rally with two in scoring position.
Wendorf (8 H, 1 W, 6 K, 8 R, 3 ER in 6 I) recovered from a wicked line drive to the sternum in Friday’s game to pitch well.
Detert (3-3, HR), Rothemeyer (2-3, 2B) and Kubichek (2-4) paced Merrill to 10 hits and 5 walks.
Post 46 sure didn’t struggle on Saturday, roughing up its host 17-1 in 4-1/2 innings to push a win streak to five games.
Luke Golisch ripped a two-run homer in the bottom of the first, Paul hit a solo shot to lead off the third for an 8-1 lead after doubling twice. A nine-run fourth was highlighted by Kyle Rajek’s three-run tater and Kubichek’s three-run single.
Paul (4-4, HR, 2-2B, 2 RBI), Schlueter (3-3, 2B), Golisch (3-4, HR), Rothmeyer (2-2, 2B) and Rajek (1-1, HR, 3 RBI) paced the Merrill attack to 17 hits and 5 walks.
Paul (2 H, 8 K, 1 ER in 4 I) and Porath (1 W, 2 K in 1 I) locked up the win.
Merrill set the tone for the weekend with its six-run rally without a single out. Post 46 found itself in a 7-2 mess by passing up a couple of plays at the plate, and committing a two-run error in the top of the seventh.
It didn’t matter as it turned out. The locals had gotten one back in the sixth on back-to-back doubles by Cordova and Schlueter. Annis walked to open the bottom of the seventh, Rajek looped a single and Golisch doubled Annis home.
Cordova’s RBI single made it 7-4, and Schlueter walked the bases full. A wild pitch scored Golisch and Detert doubled the score tied. Thiel smashed a shot off the third-baseman’s glove into foul territory and Detert dashed home for the winning run.
Thiel (3-4, 2-2B, 2 RBI) and Cordova (2-4, 2B) helped Merrill reach 9 hits and 3 walks. Wendorf (2 H, 2 W, 5 K, 2 ER in 4-1/3 I) started and Paul (3 H, 1 W, 4 K, 5 R, 3 ER in 2-2/3 I) won.
Making a Point
Merrill closed out the regular season on Wednesday when Point came to Athletic Park.
Point grabbed a 3-0 lead with a pair of unearned runs, although the locals got one back in the second on Jordan Burton’s RBI double. Cordova hit on in the third and Detert also singled home a run to get within 5-3.
Thiel kicked off the sixth with a homer, and Cordova’s RBI single and Detert’s two-run hit put Merrill up 8-5.
Point surged ahead 9-8 in the seventh, but Dylan Burkam hit a walk-off two-run homer for the win.
Detert (3-3, 2B, 3 RBI), Burkam (2-2, HR, 3 RBI), Golisch (2-3) paced 12 hits and 6 walks. Golisch (7 H, 3 W, 2 K, 5 R, 3 ER in 5 I), Annis (3 H, 1 W, 4 R, 2 ER in 1-1/3 I) and Paul (1 K in 1/3 I) pitched.