The Rhinelander High School baseball team proved Saturday that it can get the job done in a variety of ways on the diamond.
The Hodags can play small ball when needed, but during Saturday's doubleheader in Wisconsin Rapids, they used the long ball to sweep the home team.
In the first game, Rhinelander led 8-0 after three innings, but Wisconsin Rapids made a push, scoring four in the fifth and sixth.
Tait Spencer entered the game, replacing starter Matt Rudolph with the tying run on deck. Spencer got the final four outs of the game without allowing a hit or run as the Hodags prevailed 8-4.
In the second game, Rhinelander clubbed the Red Raiders, en route to a 7-2 win.
"It's great to get two, especially from a quality program like Wisconsin Rapids," RHS head coach Joe Waksmonski said. "I have a lot of respect for Bob Gawlitta and what he does with his program. It's good to get two wins from a good program like that."
The story of both games was the amount of extra-base hits by the Hodags.
Rhinelander totaled nine, including five in the first game of the day.
"The wind was blowing out today and we are the type of lineup where we are capable of hitting extra-base hits," Waksmonski said.
"Tyler and JD today were able to take advantage today. They were playing their outfield in at times and I think we kind of burned them a couple times. Brad Quade hit a couple shots to right field and, again, we're capable of taking advantage of outfields that are trying to play us in."
Big inning sparks Game 1 win
Tyler Blomdahl got the offense started in the first inning, launching a 2-run home run to get the early lead.
It was an offensive explosion in third inning that allowed Rhinelander to distance itself from Wisconsin Rapids, however.
The Hodags scored six runs in the bottom of the third inning to take an 8-0 lead.
"All of that occurred after two outs and, when you look at the scorebook and you see the hit batter and the four walks in a row after that, you know I thought all of those at-bats where we induced walks, our hitters showed great discipline," Waksmonski said. "A lot of those at-bats got to two strikes and they were able to show good plate discipline and they earned their walks."
The Red Raiders made it a game late, but Spencer came in to shut it down.
"Tait came in and it's one of those situations where Tait hasn't pitched in over a month," Waksmonski said. "He's got a couple of bullpens in him - he threw one last night. He came in and did a nice job. Rapids had a lefty-dominant lineup, especially at the top of their order so it was good for him to come in there and have that matchup lefty vs. lefty. He did a nice job with it."
Rudolph allowed four runs - only one earned - on seven hits for the win.
DeMeyer's bomb ices sweep
Rhinelander led 4-2, with two outs in the bottom of the sixth when Jacob DeMeyer stepped to the plate.
DeMeyer proceeded to send a
3-run dinger over the fence to
give the Hodags the cushion they needed.
"JD gave us that final breathing room. It was a big shot," Waksmonski said. "From 4-2 to 7-2 with two outs. That's huge right there. That gave us a lot more cushion to play with going into the seven inning. Another big hit, a three-hit day by JD in game 2. He came up clutch."
Brad Comer went the distance on the mound in the second game.
Comer allowed just two runs on six hits in his complete-game win.
"All of our pitchers, especially Brad, they were right around the zone," Waksmonski said. "If it wasn't a strike, the pitches were close and competitive and made their hitters think about 'should I swing or should I not.' Brad came in there and kept their hitters off-balance. We made some nice plays defensively behind him but, again, a lot of credit went to what Brad did on the mound today."
Blomdahl's big stick carried over into the second game, going 2 for 4, with two RBIs, along with a double and a triple.
Rhinelander (10-3, 7-1 GNC) looks to bring the momentum of these two wins into today's tilt at Great Northern Conference leader Antigo.
The Hodags could move to a half of a game back in the standings with a win, with the teams scheduled to play again on May 22.
The Red Robins would clinch at least a share of the GNC title with a win.
"It's unusual to play them this late in the conference year but, with the rescheduling and all that, that's the way it played out," Waksmonski said. "It's also big because it's the last game before our seeding meeting going into Wednesday night. It's big on two fronts there."
Nick Sabato may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @SabatoNick.
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