Rhinelander’s Lindsay Juedes, bottom, is called out at home plate by home plate umpire Bill Roth after being tagged out by Mosinee’s Janel Logsdon during the sixth inning of a Great Northern Conference softball game Tuesday, April 18 at Pioneer Park. The call kept the score 6-4 in favor of the Indians, who went on to win the game 11-4. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
4/20/2017 7:30:00 AM Hodags lose Schickert, game to Mosinee
The Rhinelander High School softball team longs to establish itself as the best team in the Great Northern Conference, but the Hodags continue running into the glass ceiling that is Mosinee.
It happened again Tuesday as the eight-time defending conference champs took advantage of the error-prone Hodags, using big innings in the fifth and the seventh to down Rhinelander 11-4 at Pioneer Park.
To make matters worse for the Hodags (2-1, 2-1 Great Northern), senior ace Ali Schickert left the game in the seventh inning with an apparent knee injury, the severity of which was not immediately known.
The outcome of the game had pretty much been decided by then as the Hodags committed seven errors - three of which directly led to four Indian runs. Mosinee also scored in the game on a bases-loaded walk and a wild pitch.
The Hodags collected nine hits on the day, and trailed by two runs heading to the seventh, but there was no way to deny it - Rhinelander simply beat itself Tuesday.
"Fundamentally, we didn't play good ball," Rhinelander coach D.J. DeMeyer said.
It started in the second inning when a pair of bad throws in the infield allowed Brooke Hintz to reach base and score for the Indians. Makayla Kuester tied it with a solo homer in the fourth, but the Hodags gave the momentum right back in the top of the fifth.
After Miranda Rux reached on an infield hit to third, Brooke Wierzbanowski reached safely on a bunt in front of the pitcher's circle in which Schickert and first baseperson Hope Wissbroecker nearly collided. Another bunt, and an overthrow to third, allowed Rux and Wierzbanowski to score. McKayla Garski added an RBI single before Schickert issued a bases loaded walk and delivered a wild pitch that allowed two more runs to score.
"We gave them five (runs) on fundamentals there, so what's disappointing is we claw back into it - not that we were out of it 1-0 - but we claw back, even it up and then we give up runs," DeMeyer said. "That's where we've got to lock down our defense and move forward."
The Hodags fought back in the bottom of the inning on an RBI grounder by Ivy Packard and a two-run double by Stephanie Kuester, but the inning abruptly ended as Wierzbanowski snagged a line drive to short by Makayla Kuester, sparking a double play.
Threatening in the sixth, the Hodags rolled the dice on the base paths, and came up snake eyes. DeMeyer sent Lindsay Juedes from second to home on a single to right by Erica Counter. Mosinee perfectly executed the relay home and threw Juedes out with time to spare.
"I saw the right fielder bobble the ball and I figured for sure (she'd make it)," DeMeyer said. "Lindsay's fast, but she must have got a bad jump. It was a liner past the first base. She probably got a bad jump and, in hindsight, I probably should have held her up, but I'm always aggressive."
Things went from bad to worse for the Hodags in the seventh as Schickert allowed a walk and back-to-back RBI doubles before slipping trying to retrieve a Janel Logsdon roller to the left of the pitcher's circle. Schickert grabbed for her right knee after the play and eventually left the contest. She allowed five earned runs over 6 1/3 innings on seven hits with eight strikeouts and six walks.
Tuesday's game was played in damp conditions with intermittent light rain. DeMeyer couldn't rule out that field conditions may have played a factor in Schickert's injury.
"It probably played a little bit a factor with Ali, she might have slipped a little bit on her plant foot but, overall, it was drizzle here, drizzle there," DeMeyer said, adding that he thought the field held up well given the weather conditions. "Both teams had to play with it and we've just got to overcome that."
Rux added a two-run double off Stephanie Kuester in relief and scored on Rhinelander's seventh and final error of the game. DeMeyer said the Hodags will hand the ball to Kuester going forward if Schickert is out for any amount of time.
"We'll figure out what goes on from there. We've got Steph as a backup and she's just as good as anybody else," he said.
It's not the first time that miscues have cost the Hodags against their conference rivals. In 2015, an error-plagued sixth inning broke open a close game as Mosinee went on to defeat the Hodags 8-3 in a WIAA regional semifinal. Last May, the Hodags led 3-1 heading to the seventh in Mosinee but allowed two runs in the bottom of the inning and eventually lost the game in eight innings 4-3 on a walkoff wild pitch.
DeMeyer said Tuesday's performance by his team was not due to a lack of preparation, rather a lack of execution.
"What's disappointing is, fundamentally, we've covered all those countless times," he said. "I talked to the girls after the game and said, 'Girls, tell me what went wrong today?' and they knew it. That's what we'll work on tomorrow. It's only our third game. It's not the end of the world. We'll work through it. We'll cover it tomorrow, cover-to-cover. They know it. They knew it a soon as they made the plays. We're trying to make the big plays instead of just getting the outs. I always stress get the out, it keeps you out of the big innings."
Rhinelander will have a rematch with the Indians May 8 at Mosinee, but the Hodags must rebound quickly if they want to stay in the GNC title race. On Thursday the Hodags will travel to Antigo which, like Mosinee, is currently unbeaten in conference play.
"We'll be ready to play," DeMeyer said. "We're building. We'll be all right."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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