The Rhinelander High School softball team did not have a lot of offense Monday, but the Hodags didn't need a lot. Ali Schickert and Stephanie Kuester combined to toss a no-hitter as Rhinelander defeated Lakeland 4-0 during a Great Northern Conference contest in Minocqua.
Rhinelander collected only five hits off Lakeland freshman Tatum Morris, but the Hodags got production from the bottom of their order, including a solo homer from senior Erica Counter.
"Overall, it's only our second game. We had three days off, so nothing spectacular but workmanlike," RHS softball coach D.J. DeMeyer said.
Rhinelander got on the board with two runs in the second as Lindsay Juedes led off with a double, was bunted along by Counter and scored on a single by Hope Wissbroecker. Wissbroecker scored later in the inning on a grounder by Molly Wagler.
Counter homered on the second pitch of the fourth inning. Wagler singled later in the inning and came around on a grounder by Mikayla Evenstad.
"Erica, we were talking all game about letting the ball get to (the hitters) and Erica listened and drove one out to right center. It was a nice shot," DeMeyer said. "We hit the ball. We hit it at them. Their third baseman made a lot of nice plays. We were a little antsy batting."
That was plenty of run support for Rhinelander's pitching staff. Despite struggling with command, Schickert struck out nine batters over four innings of work. Kuester came on in the fifth and recorded four strikeouts over the final three innings to earn the save.
Lakeland's biggest threat came in the third as Miranda Menze drew a leadoff walk, stole second and moved to third on a Syerra Farrah grounder, but Schickert fanned Anna Pairolero to get out of the game. Lakeland also got two aboard in the seventh on a walk and what Rhinelander's scorebook charged as a two-out error to second. Lakeland's scorebook credited a hit to pinch hitter Samantha Bauer, according to information provided to our sister paper, The Lakeland Times.
Regardless, Monday's result was much closer than recent meetings between the two teams. Last year, Rhinelander, swept the season series from the T-Birds 32-0 and 12-0. Prior to Monday, the last time the 10-run rule did not come into play between the two teams was a 6-0 Rhinelander win May 11, 2013. Lakeland has scored only one run in the past nine meetings against the Hodags.
DeMeyer said Lakeland is an improved team with Morris, a freshman transfer from Kimberly, in the circle.
"She throws strikes. She moves the ball," he said. "She's not fast, but she makes you hit it and their defense has definitely improved. They made some nice plays."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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