Coach Mike Bourcier figured the Rhinelander/Three Lakes boys' bowling team needed to run the table in its final four Wisconsin High School District 9 Bowling Club matches to have a chance at qualifying as a team for the state tournament the end of the month.
After Sunday's round in Marshfield, it's two down, two to go.
The Hodags did what they needed to do to stay alive, defeating Antigo 7 1/2-1 1/2 and Manawa 5-4 at Rose Bowl Lanes in District 9 dual meet play.
The wins moved Rhinelander to 5-2-1 in the boys' Division 2 district standings with two matches remaining. That puts the team in fourth place in the conference, 1 1/2 games behind Merrill and Iola-Scandinavia who are tied for second in league play (7-1). The top three teams following the conference finale Feb. 16 in Plover will advance to the state meet.
"That's going to help us. We still need next week, we need to pull out another week like this week to have a chance for going to state," Bourcier said.
The second match for the Hodag boys against Manawa came down to the final game and was not without some controversy. At issue was a spare pickup attempt at a 7-pin by Cody Bednarz in the third frame of the final game. The pin fell, but the teams disputed whether the ball touched the pin before rolling into the gutter.
The Hodags responded by making the issue moot. Following a Litzen spare in the fourth frame, the Hodags got four strikes in a row from Calvin Schneider, Jacob Wagler, Eric Jones and Bednarz to open up a commanding lead. Rhinelander ended up changing Bednarz's spare to a miss in the third frame and still won the rubber game 216-182. Rhinelander would have shot 226 had the spare stood.
"We discussed it as soon as it happened with my bowlers ... and they were like, 'That ball just caught it.' They're looking right at it. (Manawa's scorekeeper) was at an angle. Fortunately we didn't have to go down that road," Bourcier said. "The boys were just keeping going and that's all they did."
The Hodags shot five games in the 200s against Manawa, averaged 195.7 pins per game and filled 83.3% of its frames, yet the match still game down to the final game. Manawa won the opener 168-145 and won each of the three games it scored more than 200.
"This was one of those fun matches. It was like (the Super Bowl) between the 49ers and Chiefs, back and forth," Bourcier said. "One team was kind of dominant then the other team comes back and it's exciting to the end."
Earlier in the day, senior Calvin Schneider came up clutch in a couple of key moments as the Hodags took down Antigo. Following back-to-back opens in the eighth and ninth frames of Game 3, Schneider was put in a position where he needed to strike out in the 10th to win, and delivered a three-bagger to beat Antigo 168-167. Trailing by 22 pins and working off a spare in the 10th frame of Game 5, Schneider had a precarious leave with the 1, 2, 4 and 10 pins following his first ball, but converted a spare and finished with a strike to give the Hodags a 148-144 win in the game, and a 4-1 win in the match.
Schneider was flawless on Sunday, filling all 32 frames he bowled on the day to raise his season long fill percentage to .889, which unofficially moved him to third in the league individual standings. The top eight bowlers following the end of play on the Feb. 16 will qualify for the individual portion of the state meet.
"He's pretty focused, keeping in the moment and not getting too pressured," Bourcier said.
The Hodags won three of the final four games against Antigo, and tied the eighth game at 158 to close out the match.
Litzen, who Bourcier said was battling illness on Sunday, went 28 of 36 with 11 strikes, dropping his season-long fill percentage to .811 and down to 14th place, .029 percentage points out of the top eight.
"He had eight opens on the day. That's about all I figured he could have in the (final) four matches," Bourcier said. "He's pretty much got to go clean (in the final week) to have a chance to make it into that No. 8 spot."
Wagler was 25 of 32 with 13 strikes, Jeremiah Braun was 23 of 30 with 17 strikes, Bednarz went 21 of 28 with 11 strikes and Jones was 13 of 22 with six strikes.
Hodag girls falter
The Rhinelander/Elcho girls' team entered Sunday tied for the second and final state qualifying spot in the Division 2 girls' standings but lost both of its matches - falling 6-3 to Antigo and 6 1/2-2 1/2 to Manawa.
The Hodags dropped to 4-4 with the losses, two games behind Antigo and Amherst for the top spot in the standings.
"The girls, I think they are done," Bourcier said. "Even if they would win them both (the final week). With (Antigo) winning both of them and the stats where they are, if we'd win them all and Antigo would lose them, Antigo had the tiebreaker (based on total pins per game)."
The Hodags did not bowl poorly in the opening match against Antigo, averaging 165.6 pins per game and filling 67.8 percent of their frames. They just ran into a hot Antigo team that rolled four games in the 200s and averaged 191.9 pins for the match. The highlight for the Hodag girls was a 235-166 win in Game 5.
Rhinelander's numbers dipped in the second match to an average of 145.2 pins per game and a 53.3% fill rate.
The Hodags lost both Games 2 and 3 by eight pins as they fell into a 3-1 hole. Manawa clinched a tie in the match with a 183-133 win in Game 7 and the match outright with a 147-125 win in Game 8.
"They had a tough time carrying (and getting strikes)," Bourcier said. "They hit the pocket but they weren't carrying. So, if you're not carrying, you've got to make you spares. We were just missing too many easy spares, which basically cost them at least one match."
Katrina Blasius filled 26 of her 36 frames on Sunday with eight strikes, which dropped her from first to third in the league individual standings with a .810 fill rate. Mackenzie Bourcier, meanwhile, gave herself a little bit of a cushion from the state qualifying cutline. She was 30 of 36 on the day with 14 strikes to raise her fill rate to .782 which puts her fifth in the conference standings. The top six girls at season's end will make it state and Mike Bourcier said having two girls represent the Hodags at state is now the team's priority.
"We'll just keep the two girls focused and make sure they make it to state to represent Rhinelander and Elcho," he said.
Bella Walkowski was 25 of 36 with 14 strikes on the day, Alexis Kriesel was 18 of 36 with nine strikes and Paige Bailey went 10 of 36 with six strikes.
Middle schoolers edged by D.C. Everest
The Rhinelander middle school team fell 5 1/2-3 1/2 to D.C. Everest on Sunday. The Hodags lost despite averaging three more pins per game over the nine-game series. D.C. Everest was able to win the close games, however, taking three games decided by eight pins or fewer.
"It was really close. They easily could have won. There were a lot of nine-misses. They were so close, but everyone stayed in good nature. No one got down. They understand and you see improvements," coach Bourcier noted.
Payton McCue led the way filling 13 of his 18 frames with five strikes.
"We got him into his fingertip bowling ball, we got it fit for him and you can see the work in progress," Bourcier said.
Johanna Dellenbach and Calvin Welch were both 11 of 18 with five strikes, Alex Hall was eight of 18 with three strikes and Blake Klingen was eight of 18 with a strike.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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