Babe Ruth 8U girls learn the ropes
The Merrill 8U All-Stars made their first foray into the Babe Ruth State Tournament, but the game wasn’t too big for these little girls.
The girls were edged 10-8 by eventual champion Menominee, Mich., in the opening round on Saturday, then bounced back with a 22-12 triumph over Wausau. They lost 14-6 to runner-up Marinette in Sunday’s finale.
“It was an excellent, excellent experience for the girls,” Merrill manager Chad Krueger said. “They handled it really good. They had fun. It seemed all the parents were excited and had fun. It was a great group of kids. They worked very hard. We had six practices in two weeks. They made a lot of improvements.
“I also had very good assistant coaches (Jason Krueger, Steve Drew and Beaver Plautz), so that helped. When I pitched, they pretty much had to run it.”
The age-group features coach-pitch, with no walks, three strikes for a strike-out with a maximium of five pitches to get a hit unless the fifth and successive pitches are fouled off.
“I didn’t strike out too many,” Krueger said. “You feel bad when you do, but the girls hit really well.”
Merrill grabbed a 13-2 lead in the Wausau game and never looked back. Wausau did cut it to 13-7 in the bottom of the 3rd, but the girls matched those 5 runs in the top of the 4th. Three Wausau runs made it 18-10 through 5 complete.
They tacked on pairs of runs in the next 2 innings while limiting Wausau to solo scores apiece.
Merrill pounded out 31 hits, led by Nicole Zoellner (4-4), Allison Palacek (4-4), Madisyn Krueger (3-4), Rachel Travis (3-4), Kendall Krueger (3-4), Ashlynn Semling (3-4) and Courtney Krueger (3-5).
Merrill built an 8-2 in 2 innings of the opener, but Menominee tied it up in the top of the 3rd. Neither team could score again until Menominee tacked on 2 in the 5th.
“The girls kept fighting and played hard,” Krueger said.
C. Krueger (3-3) Semling (3-3) and Paige Plautz (2-3) helped Merrill reach 13 hits.
Merrill and Marinette were tied 2-2 after an inning, but the host team cut loose for 7 in the 2nd. Merrill scored 4 in the 5th, but it only offset Marinette’s 4th.
“If you look at the games we lost, it’s just one inning,” Krueger said. “That’s what cost us. These games all come down to defense.”
Claire Drew hit 2-3 and 8 other girls reached safely.