The Merrill Rangers kept their playoff hopes alive with Sunday’s 9-6 home triumph over Abbotsford.
The game proved to be eerily similar to Wednesday’s contest with the same Merchants team, who had to be feeling a little déjà vu. The biggest difference was location in that 12-10 win. Both times Merrill grabbed an early lead but held on with late pitching, defense and continued offense.
“Both games were very similar,” Merrill manager Shawn Schultz said. “We got up early and let them back in. But both games we kept hitting. We hit the ball the entire day today and the entire night the other night.”
The Rangers finished with 17 hits -- at least one from every player -- and seven different team members scored.
Merrill jumped out to a 7-0 margin on Sunday through the fourth inning. An RBI single from Alex Grunenwald and run-scoring double from Kyle Rajek made it 2-0 in the first, Garrett Pagel doubled and scored on Alex Cordova’s hit in the second, and Ben Anderson’s double in the third lead to a run-scoring hit from Dylan Schielke and an RBI sac from Ty Grunenwald. Rajek singled two home in the fourth.
“It was good to get out ahead early,” Schultz said. ‘I gave back a couple, but we worked through it and got some outs.”
Abby made it interesting with two in the fifth and four in the sixth, although the final two came on a controversial slide at the plate that helped create a two-run throwing error on a double-play try at first.
But starter Schultz would pitch a 1-2-3 seventh, and give way to Alex Grunenwald, who fanned four of seven batters he faced, allowing one runner to reach first. The Rangers also created some space when Rajek drove in his fourth run of the game in the sixth, and Alex Grunenwald pushed brother Ty across in the eighth.
“We’re 4-4 now,” Schultz noted of Merrill’s Dairyland League record. “We get Minocqua, Wednesday, and Whittlesey, Saturday, to finish up. So two more games we need to win to make the playoffs. Everybody wants to play that extra game. Maybe it turns into 3-4 extra games.”
Minocqua was at 2-5 and Whittlesey was 5-2 before this weekend’s action. Only Sunday’s game counted in Merrill’s DL standings.
Abbotsford– 000 024 000--6.
Merrill– 212 201 01x--9.
MP: Shawn Schultz 7 I, 7 H, 1 W, 1 K, 6 R, 4 Er; Alex Grunenwald 2 I 0 H, 4 K, 0 R. MH 17 H, 2 W; Alex Grunenwald 3-3, 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI; Kyle Rajek 3-5, 2B, 4 RBI; Garrett Pagel 2-4, 2B; Alex Cordova 2-4; Dylan Schielke 2-4; Chris Grunenwald 2-5; Ben Anderson 1-4, 2B.