In this May 7, 2019 file photo, Rhinelander’s Liam Stevens hits a pitch during a Great Northern Conference baseball game against Mosinee at Stafford Field. Rhinelander, the No. 5 seed in its WIAA Division 2 regional, will open the WIAA playoffs at Mosinee Thursday. Coach Joe Waksmonski said the Hodags are looking to get their offense going on a more consistent basis. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
5/21/2019 7:33:00 AM Hodags look to get bats going heading into postseason
With the playoffs set to start Thursday for the Rhinelander High School baseball team, the Hodags are hoping to get their bats going on a more consistent basis.
"For us, it's going to be offensively the focus," Hodag coach Joe Waksmonski said following Thursday's doubleheader split against Tomahawk. "We need to have better at-bats, we need to have consistent at-bats and be able to stack those at-bats in our lineup. We'll have one or two good at-bats and then follow it up with three poor at bats. We just need to be consistent and, really, that's what it's going to take in the playoffs. You're going to have to be consistent up and down your lineup."
As a team, Rhinelander is hitting .292, and .299 with runners in scoring position, but has had a penchant for leaving key runners in scoring position, which was the case in a Game 1 loss against Tomahawk last Thursday and a Game 2 loss to Mosinee back on May 7.
Rhinelander travels to Mosinee to begin the WIAA tournament Thursday afternoon.
Offense has been the focus this week as Rhinelander finishes regular season play today at home against Merrill.
Even if batters are not getting on base, taking at-bats beyond five pitches helps drive up the pitch count for opposing pitchers, which may pay dividends later in a game if a team is forced to go to its bullpen, Waksmonski said.
"We're going to talk a lot about having good at-bats, being focused and playing with enthusiasm," he said. "A lot of times we're not playing with a lot of enthusiasm and I think a lot of it has to do with these doubleheaders. They are long nights but, as long as we're focused, we're a pretty good baseball team."
Looking ahead to Thursday, Waksmonski said he was not necessarily surprised to receive the No. 5 seed in an eight-team bracket that includes five Great Northern Conference schools. The Hodags finished fourth in the GNC standings and all three schools that finished ahead of Rhinelander in the conference are among the bracket's top four teams. Conference champion Medford got the No. 1 seed, followed by Antigo, Wausau East from the Wisconsin Valley Conference and Mosinee.
"That's kind of right where we were thinking, between four and five," Waksmonski said. "It is what it is, we'll have to travel to Mosinee. The one nice thing about not hosting is you can just get on a bus and go and you don't have to worry about some of the extracurriculars that go into hosting a game."
Rhinelander split a twinbill against Mosinee in Rhinelander May 7, winning the first game 6-3 before dropping Game 2, 4-2.
Antigo is the only team in the bracket that Rhinelander has played and not beaten this year. The Hodags canceled a non-conference game against Wausau East due to conference scheduling conflict.
That's an indication of how evenly matched the regional is. Even Abbotsford/Colby, which drew the No. 8 seed, split a doubleheader with top-seeded Medford back on April 9.
"We talked about this at the meeting, anyone can get hot and win three games out of our regional and do a nice job at a sectional tournament," Waksmonski said. "Most of the teams are evenly matched and it's all about who's going to be playing better on that particular day."
The winner of Thursday's Rhinelander-Mosinee game will advance to the regional semifinals next Tuesday against the Medford-Abbotsford/Colby winner.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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