A conflict with a football camp this week has made the Great Northern Legion Conference race much more interesting in the final week of the regular season.
Mosinee was unable to field a team Tuesday and forfeited its scheduled GNLC contest at Rhinelander.
"Our football coach planned an out-of-town two-day practice and I am losing too many kids," Mosinee manager Patrick Reed told league officials in an email Tuesday.
Both team managers agreed Tuesday morning that the game would be considered a forfeit. There's very little time for the teams to make up the contest, with the Rebels playing twice more later this week and regional play for both teams set to begin in the middle of next week.
The forfeit nixes what was to have been a showdown between the top two teams in the conference, and tightens the conference standings. Mosinee (9-3, 8-2 GNLC) currently holds a one-game lead over Rhinelander (13-3, 6-2). Rhinelander could draw even with wins over Northwoods Thursday and Tomahawk Friday.
"Unfortunate that Mosinee can't field a team," Rebels manager Dan Huhnstock said. "We are even in the loss column now. I'm not exactly sure how the balance of the games for all the rest of the conference is going to play out, but it definitely puts us in a position where if we take care of our business, we have at least a share of the conference title anyway."
After Friday, both teams would have two games remaining in what is supposed to be a 12-game league schedule. Mosinee has had games with Northwoods and Minocqua postponed for various reasons, with no make-up dates currently planned. Rhinelander has twice been rained out in its attempts to play Medford this season. The teams are tentatively scheduled to play a doubleheader Wednesday, July 26 in Rhinelander, provided that neither team qualifies for the state tournament.
Mosinee defeated Rhinelander head-to-head 4-3 in Mosinee on June 23 on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the seventh inning to go two up in the loss column on the Rebels nearing the midway point of the conference slate. Rhinelander hasn't lost a GNLC game since while Mosinee fell to Chequamegon in an extra-inning game on June 26.
The forfeit also alleviated a potential pitching shortage for Rhinelander due to pitch count regulations. Only two of the six pitchers Rhinelander has used this summer - Bryce Schickert and Easton Senoraske - were available to pitch Tuesday's game following a four-game tournament over the weekend in Merrill that taxed the Rebels' rotation.
The only arm the Rebels won't have available for Thursday's game against Northwoods is Matt Rudolph, who threw 79 pitches in Sunday's win over D.C. Everest and is required to observe four days of rest under Legion regulations. Rudolph would be eligible to pitch again Friday at Tomahawk.
"We still got to go out and play our game and take care of our business and not worry about anyone else is doing," Huhnstock said. "It's very important, both for conference standings and keeping our momentum rolling toward the regional tournament."
The Rebels are the defending GNLC champions. They won last year's conference title by a half game over Mosinee after Mosinee was unable to make up a game against Northwoods.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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