Rhinelander’s Josh Randolph delivers a pitch during the second game of a Great Northern Conference doubleheader against Tomahawk at Stafford Field Thursday, May 16. Randolph struck out 13 and scattered two hits in a 7-1 win over the Hatchets. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Payton Johnson strikes out during the first game of a Great Northern Conference doubleheader against Tomahawk at Stafford Field Thursday, May 16. The Hodags were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 baserunners in a 4-2, Game 1 loss to the Hatchets.
5/18/2019 7:32:00 AM Hodags split doubleheader, finish .500 in GNC
The Rhinelander High School baseball team's up-and-down Great Northern Conference season came to an end in predictable fashion Thursday.
The Hodags couldn't come up with a clutch hit in Game 1 and were upset 4-2 by Tomahawk in the first game of a doubleheader at Stafford Field, but rallied behind a gem from Josh Randolph in the nightcap to win 7-1, salvage a doubleheader split and finish an even 6-6 in league play.
Randolph, who tossed a one-hitter against the Hatchets last spring, dominated Tomahawk again, striking out 13 in a complete-game two-hit effort. Jake Kaminski's RBI-single in the second was the last batter to get aboard for the Hatchets. From there, Randolph retired the final 16 batters, including 13 via the strikeout.
"He just found a groove. He was able to locate his fastball and his curveball," Hodag coach Joe Waksmonski said. "He would throw a changeup a little bit but, for the most part it was fastball, curveball. He was mixing inside, outside, up and down and, for the most part, had their hitters guessing all night. It's fun when you can call a game as a coach, your pitcher's in a groove and just about anything you call, the pitcher can execute."
Serving as the visiting team for Game 2, Rhinelander scored two runs in the top of the first and never looked back. Randolph helped his own cause with a two-out RBI single and scored Abe Laggis.
Martin Hoger also came around as Tomahawk tried to throw back to second.
Three Hatchet errors helped the Hodags add to the lead in the fourth. Bryce Schickert walked and scored when Danny Zuiker reached on a two-out error. Laggis followed with an RBI single that scored Liam Stevens and made it 4-1.
Rhinelander tacked on two more runs in the fifth thanks to an RBI double by Stevens followed by a run-scoring base hit by Walker Hartman. Hoger singled home Zuiker in the sixth for the game's final run.
The clutch hitting was refreshing for the Hodags, who stranded 11 base runners in Game 1 and were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
"It was nice to see our bats rebound from Game 1 and make some of the adjustments necessary," Waksmonski said.
The Hodags couldn't buy a clutch hit in Game 1. Rhinelander squandered a second-and-third, one-out chance in the first as Laggis was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a Josh Randolph grounder and Eric Grulke struck out looking.
Schickert, meanwhile, cruised through the first three innings before running into trouble. A two-out base hit by Isaiah Scheffler scored Nick Kahle to give the Hatchets the lead. A pair of leadoff walks were followed by an RBI hit by Kaminski in the fifth. Marcus Matti scored a second run on the play as the Hodags muffed the relay throw in from the outfield and Matt Bartz added an RBI ground out to give the Hatchets a 4-0 lead.
Waksmonski said Schickert lost the command of his curveball midway through the game.
"Things were going really well for him the first three innings and then, for whatever reason, he just kind of lost it," he said. "That hurts the pitcher because now you're limited to one, maybe two pitches and, as a hitter, you realize the pitcher lost his curveball and you can sit on fastballs."
Randolph singled home Isaac Bixby in the bottom of the inning, but Grulke grounded out with runners at the corners to end the threat. The Hodags chased Sam VonSchrader from the game with two outs in the sixth following a couple of walks. Reliever Garrett Nelson then walked Zuiker to load the bases, but Laggis followed with a ground ball to first and umpire Mike DeBels ruled that Nelson beat Laggis in a foot race to the bag.
Hoger walked and scored on a wild pitch in the seventh, but the rally was slowed by a Grulke double play ball. Payton Johnson popped out to second to end the game.
"I believe we had 10 walks offensively and to not be able to capitalize on that, really just kind of killed us," Waksmonski said. "We had multiple innings with runners in scoring position and just could not get the hit. The last couple of days we spent working strictly on swings and offensive production, so it's kind of frustrating as a coaching staff to see that."
Rhinelander's chances to finished tied for third in the GNC went away with the Game 1 loss, combined with Mosinee's Game 1 win in a doubleheader against Antigo which allowed Medford to wrap up the GNC title. Rhinelander will travel to Mosinee Thursday to open the WIAA playoffs. The Hodags received the fifth seed in an eight-team Division 2 regional.
Rhinelander wraps up the regular season with non-conference games against Stratford and Merrill Monday and Tuesday at Stafford Field.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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