Addi DeMeyer delivers a pitch during the Northwoods Fastpitch softball tournament at Northland Pines High School in Eagle River Friday, June 21. DeMeyer is one of several incoming Rhinelander freshmen who is playing travel softball over the summer and could provide the RHS softball team a needed numbers boost next spring. (Photos by Jeremy Mayo/River News)
Haley Ives attempts to leg out a single during the Northwoods Fastpitch softball tournament at Northland Pines High School in Eagle River Friday, June 21.
6/25/2019 7:34:00 AM Summer holds key to future for Hodag softball
EAGLE RIVER - Despite a tough season that saw the Rhinelander High School softball team go 2-17, coach D.J. DeMeyer remains optimistic.
That's partially because he knows what the program will gain next season.
The future of softball for Rhinelander and a couple of other GNC schools was on display this past weekend in the Northwoods Fastpitch youth softball tournament at the Northland Pines High School athletic complex.
GNC rivals Rhinelander, Lakeland and Northland Pines have joined forces to form the travel program that competes at the 16U, 14U and 12U level in several tournaments throughout the summer.
"We're just trying to build the softball teams in our communities and make us more competitive," DeMeyer said. "This is what we've been doing the last three year, combining with Eagle River and Lakeland and it's been a fantastic team. The girls get to play in 4-5 tournaments, get some practices in. It's good for (all the) programs."
DeMeyer is the coach for the 14U squad which includes eight players from Rhinelander - five of whom are going to be freshmen for the 2020 softball season. That's good news for a program that struggled with numbers this past season with only one senior and only 14 players overall.
In that group are three potential pitchers including Addi DeMeyer, D.J's daughter, along with Abigale Bixby and new transfer into the district Madison Lucas. Maddi Roeser and Abigale Johnson round out the freshman-to-be quintet that played this weekend for Northwoods. DeMeyer said the incoming freshmen have the ability to inject some life back into the team.
"They want to be here. They're good kids. They're going to bring in fresh ideas, hustle and show how the game should be played," he said. "Hopefully, that will help some of our younger classmen have fun again. Last year was not fun - and they'll admit that too - but we want to have fun. If you have fun, you can play good ball. Hopefully they will inject that into the upperclassmen."
Two of this year's varsity players - Hannah Worachek and Alexis Engelking - played in the 16U bracket for Northwoods this past weekend.
More incoming freshmen have played locally at the U14 level in a league that includes teams from Rhinelander, Three Lakes, Crandon, Lakeland and Laona. That league is entering its last week of play for the summer but the travel schedule is just heating up for those on the Northwoods squad.
The team travels up to Calumet, Mich. for a tournament next weekend, is back in the area for the Tomahawk tournament July 19-21 and then heads to Appleton Aug 2-4 for the Heat Tournament.
"That's a really big tournament," DeMeyer said of the Appleton event. "That will challenge these girls really well. There were be a lot of teams there."
The make-up of the three Northwoods teams varies. The 16U squad has a majority of players from Northland Pines and Lakeland and only two from Rhinelander. The 14U squad included eight Rhinelander and three Northland Pines players. The 12U squad had four Rhinelander players and an even split representing the two other schools.
The teams may be Great Northern Conference rivals, but to try to keep up with the rest of the conference, playing in the summer is a must.
"Mosinee has a fantastic (youth) program with a lot of kids. Antigo has a lot of kids," DeMeyer said. "We actually went down to Antigo last year with this team and we took second. We actually beat Antigo to get into the finals. We're very competitive with this team. It gives the girls some success and, hopefully, we can build on it."
Northwoods won the 12U and 16U brackets over the weekend while the 14U team earned the top seed out of pool play but lost Saturday in the semifinal round.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce