The American Legion Post 46 baseball team has run through some tough recent times, but the boys showed strong signs of breaking the constraints when they played Stevens Point to a 9-6 loss on Thursday night.
SPASH was one of the top teams in the state is the high school season, but Merrill grabbed an early 3-0 lead in the first inning, battled back to a 5-5 tie in the third and took a 6-5 lead in the fourth. But Point hit its third homer, and second three-run blast, of the night in the sixth to fashion the victory.
“It was a good game tonight,” Merrill manager Dave Pyan said. “Brian Stockowitz pitched a great game, (but) three pitches that went for homers cost him a win. I should have gone to Juhlk's (Brad Juhlke) one batter sooner.
“We had a tough schedule this week, plus we've been playing a lot on the road. It’s tough losing four in a row after a hot start, but we should get better when we get our regulars back next week. Cole Gustke and Dakota Ress did a great job playing out of position for our missing starters.”
Gustke moved from second to catcher to replace Mason Reinhardt, a recently named Honorable Mention All-State player, and Ress shifted from outfield to second to cover Gustke.
The locals had gotten off to a 2-0 start, but road games with top opponents, including Plover, dropped them to 5-4 through Thursday.
Post 46 did reach strapping Point pitcher Aaron Nickel for eight hits, but Nickel struck out 11. Stockowitz (seven) and Juhlke (four) combined for 11 K’s themselves, but Point reached Stockowitz for nine hits including the three homers.
“Tom Zuelsdorff and Adam Messerschmidt had big nights at the plate,” Pyan said. “We’ve got to quit taking the called third strikes and be more aggressive at the plate.”
Zuelsdorff batted 4-4, while Messerschmidt hit 2-3. Both scored twice.
Stevens Point– 023 013 0--9.
Merrill– 302 100 0--6.
MP: Brian Stockowitz 5-2/3 I, 9 H, 2 W,7 K, 9 R, 8 ER; Brad Juhlke 1-1/3 I, 0 H, 2 W, 4 K, 0 R. MH: 9 H, 2 W, 1 HBP; Zuelsdorff 4-4, 2B, 2 R; Messerschmidt 2-3, 2 R; Juhlke 1-2, 2B, 2 W.