Rangers get ready for playoffs after 3-1 finish sets table
The Merrill Rangers continued their winning ways this week, winning 3 of 4, and locking up 3rd place in the Dairyland Baseball League standings with a 10-4 mark. The third place finish lands them a coveted spot in the Wisconsin Baseball Association playoffs starting August 9th.
The week started with a make-up game against the neighbors to the south, Wausau, last Tuesday. Luke Golisch was back on the mound and pitched superbly, scattering only five hits, striking out seven and walking only three. Wausau managed to jump out to a 3-run lead after a series of hits, but that turned out to be the only runs they would get.
The Rangers’ bats started off slow, but erupted to take a 5-3 lead in the 5th inning. The rally started in an unusual way when the Wausau pitcher ran out of steam and walked four straight batters to put the Rangers on the board. With the bases loaded, Brad Kanitz cracked a 2 RBI single to tie the game 3-3. Chase Nelson followed it up with another 2 RBI single to give the Rangers a 5-3 lead and they never looked back. Golisch shut them down and a Kanitz RBI double scored Alex Cordova to add an insurance run right after the 7th inning stretch.
This 6-3 victory ultimately gave the Rangers the head-to-head tiebreaker against the tough Wausau team when they both finished 10-4 in the standings.
The Rangers were on the field again the next day against Abbotsford, who had beaten the Rangers during the last two meetings. The hometown Rangers were not going to let them make it three. Coach Johnny Annis was on the mound and struck out four while keeping them scoreless through four innings.
The Rangers struck in the 3rd and 4th innings, starting with a Shawn Schultz triple that scored Garrett Pagel. Luke Golisch, batting left-handed, knocked one to the second baseman to score Schulz, giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead. The Rangers added another run in the 4th inning after Chris Grunenwald singled, moved to third on a Kyle Rajek single and scored on a wild pitch.
Abbotsford threatened in the 5th but came up empty before making it a 4-2 ball game by getting 2 runs in the 6th inning. The Rangers blanked them the rest of the game and added 2 runs in the bottom of the 6th inning when Kyle Rajek singled, Jared Rothmeyer reached on an error and Jim Servi singled them home.
The Rangers weren’t done, though, capping off the game by scoring two more in the 7th inning when Luke Golish and Alex Cordova both singled and scored when they were driven in by Grunenwald and Rajek. The Rangers coasted the rest of the way to an 8-2 victory.
The great thing about writing our own articles is that we don’t have to expand on games like the one against Whittlesey on Saturday. Due to a Legion Tournament, the Rangers played at the MARC and lost 17-0. That about sums up the game.
Ed. note: The MARC’s short porch led to numerous home runs that are long fly ball outs in Athletic Park, although Whittlesey was clearly the class of the Dairyland this year. The Reds shared the regular-season title with Everest, and earned the playoff tiebreaker.
Closing out third place
The Rangers were back in true form the next day when they beat Taylor County in a close duel 8-6. Taylor County started off hot, scoring two runs with three hits in the opening inning. The Rangers quickly responded with four runs of their own in the 2nd inning with walks by Lucas Thiel, Mike Koppleman, Luke Golish, a single by Jim Servi and a clutch 2 RBI single by Johnny Annis.
Their rivals were right back at in the 3rd inning when they tied the game 4-4 with three more hits. The Rangers returned the favor with two more of their own in the bottom of the inning to take the lead back. Three more walks followed by a big Brad Kanitz single led to the scores.
The Rangers added another in the 4th inning on an RBI double by Servi to scored Rajek and a deep sacrifice fly in the 8th inning by Thiel to score Grunenwald and put the game out of reach. Chase Nelson picked up the win and Shawn Schultz came in for the save to solidify the 8-6 victory.
Coach Johnny Annis only had one thing to say, “It’s a great week to be a Merrill baseball fan,” after leading the Merrill Legion team to a State Tournament berth and solidifying the Merrill Rangers’ place in the playoffs.
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