GAME 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 5:30 p.m.
GAME 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 8 p.m.
SUNDAY, JULY 21
GAME 6: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 3 p.m.
GAME 7: Winner Game 6, vs Loser Game 6 (if necessary), 5:30 p.m.
* All games at Antigo's Kretz Bros. Park
7/18/2019 7:32:00 AM Rebels road to state runs through Antigo, but Pulaski comes first
Two years ago, Rhinelander Post 7 was one run away from the Wisconsin American Legion Class AA state tournament. Last year, the Rebels went two games and out at home in the regional tournament.
As the Legion postseason rolls around once again, the Rebels are looking to replicate the results from 2017 - or even 2010 and 2012 when they qualified for state. According to manager Dan Huhnstock, the recipe for success boils down to four simple words.
"Good pitching. Solid defense," he said.
That's the game plan for the Rebels as they kick off the regional tournament tomorrow night taking on Pulaski at Kretz Bros. Park in Antigo. Shawano and Antigo are the two other teams in the double-elimination tournament that will run through Sunday.
Antigo is the most known commodity of the bunch, given that Rhinelander plays Antigo twice each spring in high school competition. The Typhoon have a number of players from the team that won the WIAA Division 2 state championship last month, along with several graduated seniors that make them the odds-on favorite to make yet another trip to the state tournament, which will be held July 26-30 at Woodside Sports Complex in Mauston.
"Until proven otherwise, they've earned that right and have the target on their back," Huhnstock said. "They've been wearing that target real well. Until somebody knocks them off the throne, you would have to think they're the team to beat."
Rhinelander has some familiarity with Shawano, having played the Patriots twice in the 2017 Legion regionals, and twice more in a doubleheader the following spring. But the two teams did not meet during last year's regional and Shawano is listed as 0-7, according to games reported to Wisconsin Baseball Central.
Pulaski is the wild card of the bunch. Rhinelander has not faced Pulaski in varsity play since suffering a 5-3 loss in WIAA tournament play back in 2012. Pulaski was 8-13 overall during high school spring ball, including an 8-9 mark in Fox River Classic Conference play.
"We've never faced them before but, from what I understand, they are a pretty solid team," Huhnstock said. "I've done a little research on them and their statistics bear that out from spring ball. We'll just go there, try to put our best foot forward and take it one game at a time."
Rhinelander is guaranteed at least one game Saturday, regardless of Friday's outcome. The losers of Friday's opening round games will play an elimination game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by the winners of Friday's games, with a trip to Sunday's championship on the line. The winner of Saturday's first game will play the loser of Saturday's second game in the nightcap on Saturday to determine the second team in Sunday's championship.
Last year, drawing Antigo in the first round did not pan out well for the Rebels. After a hard-fought 8-6 loss to the Typhoon, Rhinelander had to quickly turn around and play Northwoods in an elimination game. Northwoods pulled a shocking 3-1 upset to knock Rhinelander out of the tournament.
Two years ago, the Rebels avoided Antigo until the championship game of the tournament before losing a 14-13 slugfest.
It may seem like a break for Rhinelander not to catch Antigo out of the gates but Huhnstock noted, one way or another, to get to state a team is likely going to have to beat Antigo twice.
"It's a (double-elimination) tournament. Unless you go two games and out, you're probably going to face them at some point in time," he said. "You just have to play your A game at that time. Actually, you need to play your A game any time during the regionals."
Rhinelander lost 5-4 to the Typhoon June 8 in Antigo as part of a season-opening invite. Antigo was missing several of its high school players that day, as they were preparing for the WIAA state tournament the following week.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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