Rhinelander’s Martin Hoger delivers a pitch during an American Legion baseball game against Everest at Stafford Field Saturday, June 15. Hoger pitched a complete game in a 7-4 win over Everest, which eventually won the five-team Rebel Invite. Rhinelander finished third with a 2-2 mark. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Liam Stevens hits a fly ball during an American Legion baseball game against Copper Country at Stafford Field Saturday, June 15.
A look at the results and the final tournament standings illustrates just how turbulent of a weekend it was for the Rhinelander Post 7 Rebels in their home invitational.
Rhinelander handed eventual tournament champion Everest its only loss in the five-team round robin event, but the Rebels also gave last place Copper Country its only win.
The end result was a 2-2 record and a third-place finish in the tournament at Stafford Field, which was condensed to two days, Saturday and Sunday, after rain washed out Friday's scheduled slate of games.
"There were games where we played real good ball and games where we struggled to maintain focus," Rebels manager Dan Huhnstock said. "It just goes to show what a good team we can be at times, and that's what we're going to strive for - getting more consistent."
Rhinelander opened with a 7-4 win over Everest to start the tournament Saturday morning but then lost 8-2 to Copper Country (Hancock, Mich.) that night. The Rebels split their two games Sunday, falling 9-1 to Marquette, Mich. before bouncing back with a 13-5 win over Clintonville.
Rebels 7, Everest 4
Rhinelander got the majority of its offense early, plating six runs in the first three innings as it knocked off Everest 7-4 in the opening game of the tournament.
Martin Hoger scattered six hits and struck out four in a complete-game effort to earn the win. Rhinelander had only four hits in the contest - but all of them came early on as the Rebels led 6-2 after three innings.
"We got on them early and Martin threw a real nice game, kept them off the board for us. We made our routine plays and things went well," Huhnstock said.
Rhinelander loaded the bases with nobody out in the first inning thanks to a couple of walks and an error. Josh Randolph hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Danny Zuiker. Abe Laggis also scored on the play as the relay throw went wide, allowing him to take an extra base. Walker Hartman added a single later in the inning to score Hoger.
After Everest got two back in the second, Rhinelander went to hitting in the third as Laggis, Hoger and Randolph led off the inning with three straight singles. Laggis scored on Randolph's base knock, Jacob Dreifuerst hit a sacrifice fly to score Hoger and Randolph came around on a passed ball.
The Rebels scored an insurance run in the fifth as Laggis was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and eventually came around after a pair of wild pitches.
Everest scored runs in the sixth and seventh off Hoger, who got Evan Gartzke to hit into a game-ending fielder's choice to end the contest. Gartzke was the final batter Hoger could have faced after reaching the Legion-mandated 105-pitch maximum.
Copper Country 8, Rebels 2
Copper Country got to starter Hartman right away in the second game, tagging the Rhinelander pitcher for four runs in the first inning as the Flames went on to win, 8-2.
All the offense came after two outs for the Flames, starting with a Brandon Norkol RBI triple. After a Reed Heathman walk, Cade Farrell singled in a run and Eli Oldt hit a two-run double.
Hartman settled in after the first, and struck out seven over four innings of work, but allowed seven hits. Doubles by Will Romano and Justin Norkol led to another run in the fourth.
"They jumped on us right away. That cost us a good chance to win the game," Huhnstock said. "(Walker) threw well tonight. It wasn't on him. Collectively, as a team, we did not make some plays to help him out in the first inning. After that first inning he settled in nicely."
Rhinelander scored both of its runs in the sixth inning after loading the bases with one out. Liam Stevens drew a bases loaded walk and Dreifuerst hit an RBI fielder's choice to pull the Rebels within three, but Copper Country responded with three runs off reliever Quinn Lamers in the seventh to put the game out of reach.
Marquette 9, Rebels 1
Four critical outs on the base paths early in Sunday's game against Marquette turned the tables against the Rebels. After failing to push across the go-ahead run in the third inning, the Rebels surrendered two runs in the fourth and six in the fifth to the Blues.
After Marquette scored in the top of the first, Rhinelander got the run back in the second when Lamers doubled and scored after Teagen Guckenberg reached on an error. Isaac Bixby also tried to scored on the play, but was thrown out at the plate.
With two on and nobody out in the third, Randolph put down a perfect sacrifice bunt for a single, but the play when awry when Laggis overran the bag at third and was tagged out trying to get back to the base. Liam Stevens then flew out to left, deep enough to score a run had there been a man on third. The inning ended with Hoger getting thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on a Payton Johnson single.
Hoger also got caught in a rundown in the fifth, which turned into an inning-ending double play.
"We had some pretty sloppy base running and you can't run yourself out of innings. We sure did a good job of doing exactly that," Huhnstock said.
Marquette took the lead in the top of the fourth on an RBI single by Jon Jason and added a run when Bixby misfired high from third on a force play to the plate with the bases loaded. Marquette tacked on six more in the fifth, added by a trio of Rhinelander errors.
Randolph lasted only four innings in the loss for Rhinelander, allowing three runs on seven hits. Bixby pitched the final three innings and gave up four hits, but all six runs he allowed were unearned.
Rebels 13, Clintonville 5
It was beginning to look like more of the same for the Rebels in the nightcap. Up 2-1 in the third, Hoger was cut down for the final out, caught in a rundown between third and home and the Thunder Cats answered with two in the bottom half of the inning to take a 3-2 lead.
Then, the Rhinelander bats came alive.
The Rebels scored six times on seven hits in the fourth - and pounded out 21 hits in all - to defeat Clintonville 13-5.
Rhinelander strung together five straight hits after Zuiker reached on a two-out error in the fourth to blow the game open. Hoger, Randolph, Stevens and Dreifuerst hit four straight RBI singles in the inning.
"We answered and made up for some of the mistakes that we made. We took advantage of getting the bats really rolling," Huhnstock said.
Bixby added two-run single for Rhinelander in the sixth and the Rebels got three more in the seventh thanks to a two-run double by Stevens and an RBI single by Hartman.
Stevens led the way in the game for Rhinelander, going 5-for-5 with three doubles and three RBIs. He also pitched 4 1/3 innings to get the win.
"That's really great production from the whole team basically. Liam did a whale of a job both pitching and swinging the bat today," Huhnstock said.
Lamers and Dreifuerst were both 4-for-5 in the Clintonville game while Hartman was 3-for-4. Randolph, with pitches remaining after an early exit from the Marquette game, pitched the final 2 2/3 innings scoreless to earn the save.
The Rebels (3-4, 1-0 GNLC) return to action Wednesday against Northwoods at Stafford Field and will be in somewhat of a pitching bind, with Randolph, Hoger, Hartman and Stevens all ineligible to pitch, observing Legion-mandated rest following this weekend's outings.
Rhinelander also learned over the weekend that Brad Comer had received another opportunity with a summer league team and is not expected to play for the Rebels for the remainder of the season. Comer, an age-eligible 2018 Rhinelander graduate, pitched 3 1/3 innings of relief to earn a win over Minocqua last Wednesday in his only appearance for the Rebels.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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