Rhinelander’s Martin Hoger delivers a pitch during an American Legion baseball game against New London at Kretz Brothers Field in Antigo Saturday, June 8. Hoger pitched a complete game, but the Rebels lost the game, 3-2. (Photos by Jeremy Mayo/River News)
Rhinelander’s Payton Johnson attempts to tag New London’s Connor Brinkman during the fourth inning of an American Legion baseball game at Kretz Brothers Field in Antigo Saturday, June 8.
6/11/2019 7:30:00 AM Rebels drop pair to open season Post 7 edged by New London and Antigo in invite
ANTIGO - A young Rhinelander Post 7 squad learned the hard way Saturday how slim the margin between victory and defeat can be.
The Rebels had their chances but dropped a pair of one-run games in the Antigo Post 3 invite. Rhinelander fell to New London 3-2 in the opener and to Antigo 5-4 in the nightcap.
Both games had a common theme for a Rhinelander squad that had only one senior and no college freshmen in attendance Saturday. Error-added innings allowed both New London and Antigo to take the lead, and opportunities to rally fell by the boards for the Rebels in the late innings.
"The difference between winning and losing these games is a very slight edge," Rebels manager Dan Huhnstock said. "It's just making all the routine plays and getting a clutch hit here or there and we win both these games instead of losing these games."
The Rebels got a complete game effort against New London from Martin Hoger, but it wasn't enough as the Clippers did all of their damage in the fourth inning.
Gabe Wohlt led off with a single and moved to second on a Landen Guyette sacrifice before Logan Lacy singled to score Wohlt and put New London on the board. Myles Parker reached on an error as Payton Johnson couldn't handle a ground ball to second and Briley Johnson walked to load the bases before Connor Brinkman hit a single to right past a drawn in infield. An RBI fielder's choice by Joe Kosmerchek gave the Clippers a 3-0 lead.
Rhinelander got a run back in the bottom of the inning and Quinn Lamers led off with a single and came around on a base hit by Johnson. Johnson drove in another run in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk, but Rhinelander left the bases loaded that inning as Joe Schneider grounded out to second to end the threat.
Hoger walked to lead off the bottom of the seventh and Jacob Driefurest followed by narrowly missing a walkoff home run, flying out to the warning track in left. The Rebels weren't able to get anything else going that inning.
Hoger struck out three, walked one and scattered six hits in an 81-pitch effort. He was saddled with the tough luck loss in part because Rhinelander stranded 10 runners on base.
"A very efficient, very well thrown game," Huhnstock said. "One inning he fell in love with his fastball a little bit too much when they got some runs. He should have kept them off balance a little bit more with his curve, but an excellent pitched game. We should win games that are pitched that well. We've just got to push across a couple more runs."
It was a similar story for Rhinelander in the second game as Antigo - using a hodge podge of college freshmen and junior legion players with much of its regular lineup resting ahead of Antigo High School's trip to the WIAA state baseball tournament -pushed across four runs in an error-aided fifth to take the lead for good.
Things started with as Brennen Spencer reached on a one-out error that bounced off Quinn Lamers at short. Following a fielder's choice by Bob Brauer, Cody Urban and Garrett Held came through with back-to-back RBI singles to pull Antigo within a run at 4-3. Another run scored when AJ Kirsch reached on an error after there was some confusion as to who should cover the bag at first following a grounder to second. Two batters later, Caleb Kautza drove in what proved to be the winning run on a two-out single to left.
"We did lose the error column in the second game. Little things make the big difference, making routine plays," Huhnstock said.
The Rebels got the tying run in scoring position in both the sixth and seven innings, but were unable to draw even. Lamers struck out with Tim Fox on second to end the sixth. With two on in the second, Johnson struck out and Schneider flew out to right to end the game.
Rhinelander took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Dreifuerst singled and scored on a base hit by Schneider, a sophomore-to-be who collected two hits in the second contest. Antigo answered with back-to-back doubles by Held and Kirsch to tie the game in the bottom half of the inning.
The Rebels regained the lead in the top half of the fifth as Bixby reached on an infield hit, Lamers reached on an error and Laggis bunted himself aboard to load the bases with nobody out. Bixby scored on a passed ball and Dreifuerst walked to load the bases before Hartman singled in a run and Johnson hit a sacrifice fly.
Hartman, the everyday catcher for the RHS baseball team the past two seasons, made his first varsity-level pitching appearance on Saturday and held his own against a powerful Antigo lineup, allowing five runs - but only one earned - on six hits over 4 2/3 innings.
"He pitched a whale of a game," Huhnstock said. "I think he was a little surprised when I tabbed him starter but all winter and spring long he's been throwing bullpens. Guys are going to have to step up because we lost a lot of pitching off of last year's team, a lot of good pitching. Somebody's going to have to replace it, both this summer and next spring."
Hoger was the only senior on the squad Saturday, and he left after Game 1 to attend a prior commitment. That left the Rebels with a squad that featured five players still eligible to play at the Babe Ruth level.
"I was very impressed with our guys. We played very well today, coming down with a very young group and just starting the season," Huhnstock said of a squad that collected seven hits in both contest. "These kids are good hitters and they'll get better with more at-bats seeing this level of pitching. That bodes well for the future."
The Rebels were originally scheduled to travel to Mosinee Monday night, but Mosinee postponed that game, which will now be played as a doubleheader in Rhinelander June 26.
Rhinelander will begin GNLC play at Minocqua Wednesday night.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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