Merrill’s Post 46 baseball team had trouble getting its offense going in two games at the American Legion AA State Tournament, held at Mary Rountree Evans Field in Baraboo late last week.
Post 46 dropped Friday’s 2-0 opener to Menasha, the only undefeated team in the tourney as of Monday. Merrill then fell 11-0 the next day to Onalaska, one of four remaining teams after the weekend.
Menasha had improved to 26-7 by Monday, while Onalaska was at 32-8. Merrill finished up 12-14.
“The first game against Menasha was close throughout,” Merrill manager Dave Pyan said. “We had the momentum going against a tiring pitcher when (David) Pophal singled in the sixth. Zettler worked to a 2-1 count when lightning struck delaying the game ultimately postponing the game until Saturday morning. 
“When we resumed, Zettler walked but got caught leaning too far on the first pitch allowing the catcher to throw behind him for the first out. A pop-up and ground-out and the inning was over.”
Pyan noted that pitcher Brad Juhlke kept Post 46 squarely in the contest.
“Brad pitched well enough for us to win we just couldn’t get anything going,” he said. 
Post 46 had two chances in the Menasha contest, the first in the fifth when Seth Collins singled and Adam Messerschmidt did the same after a fielder’s choice grounder. But another grounder ended that chance.
Pophal singled to lead off the sixth and moved up on Zettler’s walk, but the pickoff and quick outs thwarted Merrill’s last rally.
Brian Stockowitz had picked up a two-out walk in the third, but was stranded at first.
Menasha manufactured solo runs in the second and third innings.
Merrill– 000 000 0–0.
Menasha– 011 000 x–2. 
MP: Juhlke 5 I, 5 H, 2 W, 3 K, 2 R, 2 ER; Collins 1 I, 0 H, 0 W, 0 K, 0 R. MH 3 H, 2 W; Messerschmidt 1-2; Pophal 1-3; Collins 1-3.

Merrill struggled right out of the box on Saturday, falling behind 8-0 by the bottom of the first inning.
“In the second game against Onalaska, we never really were in it,” Pyan said. “David struggled on the mound, not getting out of the first inning. Justin came in and pitched okay, giving up a couple of unearned runs.  
“We just didn’t hit the ball to have any chance at winning. It’s pretty tough to win if you don’t score any runs. We’ve been hitting the ball well the last couple of weeks, averaging over 10 hits a game. But we just couldn’t get it going this weekend.”
Tom Zuelsdorff led off the second with a hit, and Juhlke replaced him at first after a fielder’s choice. Juhlke would get to third but no further.
Brian Stockowitz would walk to start off the third inning, but he didn’t advance and Merrill wouldn’t put another runner on base.
Merrill– 000 00–0.
Onalaska– 810 2x–11. 
MP: Pophal 2/3 I, 3 H, 4 W, 8 R, 8 ER; Justin Pyan 4-1/3 I, 5 H, 1 W, 3 R, 1 ER. MH 1 H, 1 W; Zuelsdorff 1-2; Stockowitz 0-0, 1W.

The state tournament signals the end of the season for all the teams in the American Legion league.
“Overall the team did a good job this season and should be proud of what they accomplished getting to state,” Pyan said. “That’s two years in a row, a trend I hope to continue next year. 
“Our record is a little misleading, 12-14, but playing in the Valley is difficult. We hung with everybody this year and really only took a beating from Plover, but almost everyone takes a beating from them.”
Plover captured the state AAA tournament last weekend, beating out Marshfield for the honor, so Pyan isn’t exaggerating the talent level of Valley ball at all.
Marshfield gave Plover easily its best game of the tourney in a 9-5 loss in the third round. Otherwise, Plover rolled with 11-2 (AshPort), 16-3 (Eau Claire), 14-4 (DePere) and 13-1 (Marshfield #2) routs. 
Plover and Marshfield dominated the All-Tourney team with five and four selections, respectively. Plover’s Cal Giese and Mitch Mallek were the co-MVP’s, while Marshfield’s Dalton Varsho was the Batting Champion.
The AA All-Tournament team will chosen after Wednesday's championship game between Menasha and Sturgeon Bay. Onalaska finished third.