MHS boys tame Tigers, but Raiders close them down
The Merrill baseball team pulled off an upset of New Richmond in last Tuesday’s WIAA Regional opener, before ending its season in a 14-4 loss at #2 seed Hudson on Thursday.
Merrill, the 10-seed, unceremoniously dumped 7th-seeded New Richmond by a 9-3 tally.
“They did have some quality wins, but Coleton (Bloch) kind of over-matched them,” Bluejay coach Brian Artac said. “We thought a little bit that maybe we could have got by with Seth (Collins) and (Brad) Juhlke, but not much because you’ve got to win the first to play the second.
“They didn’t score until the sixth and that was unearned and in the seventh they scored two and one was earned. Coleton had a great year for us. He did his part.”
The offense did its part as well, grabbing an early 4-0 lead, then turning it into a 9-0 rout in the top of the 6th.
“We hit the ball well, especially Tommy (Zuelsdorff),” Artac said.
Zuelsdorff hit a 2-out, 2-run single in the top of the 1st to give Merrill a 2-0 lead, and drove in the final three runs of the 6th with a home run.
Mason Reinhardt doubled in the 1st run of the 6th, and Alex Klug doubled home the 2nd.
Merrill capped off the game with 10 hits, led by Zuelsdorff (2-4, HR, 5 RBI), Klug (2-3, 2B), Juhlke (2-3, 2B) and Reinhardt (1-3, 2B, 2 W, 2R).
Bloch (7 H, 2 W, 8 K, 3 R, 1 ER in 7 I) easily collected the win.
Hudson played up to its ranking in Thursday’s 6-inning triumph.
“They weren’t 12-1 for no reason,” Artac said. “They were the 2-seed and justifiably so. They had a nice team; senior-dominated.
“The pitcher they threw was nothing special. Our pitchers didn’t do too well, but we didn’t help them, either.”
The Jays actually grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the 1st inning on a 2-run homer by Ty Grunenwald, but the Raiders matched it in the bottom of the frame, then jumped ahead 6-2 in the 2nd with help from a Mark Smith grand slam.
“Juhlke didn’t get out of the second, so I didn’t pick the right starter,” Artac said. “Seth came in a did well for a couple of innings, but we got into the fifth and Seth couldn’t get an out. I had to bring Randall (Cruz) in. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Hudson pushed it to 11-3 in the 5th, and out-scored Merrill 3-1 in the 6th to end the game early.
Grunenwald hit an RBI triple in the 5th to cap off his 3-for-3, 3 RBI day, and Eric Zengler hit a 2-out RBI single in the 6th after walks from Zuelsdorff and Garrett Pagel.
Hudson finished with 15 hits from the trio of Bluejay pitchers-five of them for extra bases-walked 3 times and struck out the same.
Pagel (2-2) and Reinhardt (1-2, 2 R) backed up Grunenwald’s performance. Merrill had 7 hits, struck out 3 times and walked 3.
The combined sectional led to crazy travel for the Jays.
“We had to travel 700 miles in three days to play two games,” Artac said. “Your lower seeds better have gas money and meal money.
“Losing all those non-conference games (to weather cancellation) really hurt us, not to mention those (comeback) losses in the conference.”
The Merrill boys wrapped up a 7-10 season with the Hudson loss.
I thought we had a good finish, although I don’t like getting 10-runned,” Artac said. “We got 10-runned by them last year, too. You know how that ends. Get them to come here.
“We won four out of our last six games and until Thursday it was four out of five, so we definitely got it together.
“We’re losing three important seniors, kids that really did a job for us. We have some holes to fill, and some defensive moves to make. We’ve got to put a new catcher behind the plate for the first time in two years. Pagel caught every inning and hit .294 this year. Tom ended up hitting .351.
“Coleton ended up pitching 46 innings with a 4-2 record. We’ve got some nice pitchers back in Seth and Brad, and we’ve got some other kids to build around. Grunenwald batted .404 with a .551 on-base. Reinhardt hit .426 with a .518 on-base. They had a slugging pecentage in the 600’s. We’ve got Klug back at .333. (David) Pophal came around at the end. Out of 16 kids over (in Hudson) 12 of them are coming back, so that’s something to look forward to.”