American Legion Post 46 pounds its way to early wins
A small infusion of leadership has paid big early dividends for the American Legion Post 46 baseball team.
Merrill captured a pair of home wins to kick off the season, including Friday’s 11-6 triumph over Wausau and Monday’s 10-5 thumping of Rhinelander.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” Merrill manager John Annis said. “The kids are playing really well at the start.
“That’s a huge win over Wausau. I don’t think we’ve beat them for the last couple of years. We came out ready to play and scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning. That kind of helped their confidence. With three teams combining (East, West and Newman), sometimes they get that attitude that they’re going up against Wausau.”
Mason Reinhardt hit a two-run single in the 1st, and David Pophal and Ty Grunenwald singled to drive in one and two runs, respectively, for a 5-1 lead in the 2nd. Five walks, a hit batter and Ben Anderson RBI single pushed Post 46 up 9-2 in the 4th.
Post 10 pulled within 9-5 in the 6th, and 9-6 in the top of the 8th, but Merrill answered with two in the bottom of the frame, using three more walks, a hit batter and Pophal single.
“We let them back in a little, but then we stepped back on the gas,” Annis said. “That game we did all the little things. Coleton (Bloch) pitched a strong seven (innings), and Brian (Stockowitz) pitched really well in the last two innings, which was good for him.”
Merrill counted on the production of 2012 grads Cordova and Anderson. Cordova played for UW-LaCrosse this year, joining brother Adam, where he broke into the starting line-up later in the season.
“The leadership of those guys coming back really helps us,” Annis said. “You’ve got two great guys with great character coming back. Everybody gets along with them and looks up to them.”
Post 46 finished with 13 hits and 13 walks. Cordova (2-3, 3 R, 3 W), Grunenwald (2-3, 3 R, 3 W), Garrett Paagel (2-2, 4 W), Reinhardt (2-5, 2 RBI), Pophal (2-5), Anderson (2-5) led the way.
Exposing the Hodag
Post 46 jumped ahead 4-0 in the 1st with help from Pophal’s RBI hit and Pagel’s two-run double where Reinhardt was gunned down at the plate on a pinpoint relay. Rhinelander rebounded with three unearned runs in the 2nd. Solo runs in the 2nd and 4th bumped it to 6-3.
The Hodags got one back in the 5th, but Anderson kicked off the Merrill 5th with a triple off the right-field post. Cordova’s booming sac fly scored him, and a Pophal single, Grunenwald walk and wild pitch set the stage for Reinhardt’s two-run single up the middle and 9-5 lead.
“We got a strong pitching performance from Seth (Collins),” Annis said. He was a little shaky, then settled down, but he hasn’t pitched in a while. The kids made plays behind him. Rhinelander always has a good-hitting team.
“We had some good timely hitting. Reinhardt had a huge two-out single. Of course, it helps having Cordova at the top of the line-up, always getting on base. It was an overall good game-pitching, defense, hitting, base-running.”
Having Cordova available as a fireball closer eliminated the potential for the late-inning troubles the MHS squad sometimes experienced. Cordova opened by gunning down the side in the 6th purely with fastballs, then mixed in a curve in the 7th. He struck out five of the eight batters he faced.
“They essentially didn’t touch him, and he hasn’t pitched in a while either,” Annis said.
The locals ended up knocking out 13 hits to go with 6 walks and 2 hit batters, led by David Pophal (3-4, 2B), Cordova (2-2, 2 RBI), Reinhardt (2-3, 2 RBI), Zuelsdorff (2-3) Pagel (1-3, 2B, 2 RBI), Anderson (1-1, 3B, 2 W) and Grunenwald (1-4, 2B).