The Rhinelander/Three Lakes boys' bowling team knew it needed to run the table in its final conference matches of the season to have a chance to qualify for the Wisconsin High School Bowling Club state meet. The Hodags did exactly that on Sunday and everything else fell into place.
Rhinelander began the day with a 5-4 win over previously undefeated Amherst and then beat Wittenberg-Birnamwood 7-2 in a WiHSBC District 9 doubleheader in Plover and qualified for the state meet when Merrill lost both of its matches on Sunday.
The results moved the Hodags to 7-2-1 in the District 9 standings while Merrill dropped to 7-3. It vaulted the Hodags into the third and final qualifying spot in the district behind Amherst (9-1) and Iola-Scandinavia (8-1-1).
"It was a real good feeling, exciting that we're going to be able to represent Rhinelander, Three Lakes and Elcho at state, give it a shot. It will be exciting for the boys," coach Mike Bourcier said. "It's really exciting. I told the parents when we walked into to here today we never thought that would happen. There's a bunch of parents pumped that we'll be going to state ... That was a good, good day for the boys. It was very exciting. I didn't really have to coach them much and a few fine adjustments. It wasn't a whole lot coaching."
It was not easy for the Hodags, who found themselves down 3-1 early in the day's first match against Amherst. Momentum turned in the middle games of the nine-game Baker series. Jacob Wagler, Eric Jones, Cody Bednarz and Kody Litzen combined for four straight strikes in frames 6-9 of Game 5 as the Hodags rallied for a 213-177 win. In game 6, anchor bowler Calvin Schneider needed two strikes in the 10th as the Hodags won 181-177 to tie the match at three games apiece.
"All of a sudden, it was like it clicked. Boom, they were throwing strikes," Bourcier said. "I don't know what it was. Then (in Game 6) Cody Bednarz throws a spare. We looked up and they're struggling and it's like, 'C'mon Calvin.' Calvin buries the first one and then he buried the second one and they can't win. All the boys' eyes light up."
Rhinelander dodged bullets in the seventh and eighth games to clinch the match. Schneider was unable to convert a split in the 10th frame of Game 7, but Amherst also opened in the final frame to give Rhinelander a 186-170 win. Schneider converted a spare following a 6-count on his first ball in the 10th in Game 8 and then finished with a strike to give Rhinelander a 209-194 win.
"They came out and threw a great game that eighth game, just solid," Bourcier said. "We had that one open, another split by Cody, but they finished strong and we needed it all the way down to the end with Calvin picking up his spare. He needed to get that spare in the 10th frame and he converted."
The second match was not as dramatic for the Hodags, who took the first seven games against the Chargers. Rhinelander came out with a 237 to start and stayed hot, with games of 182 or higher in each of the first six games.
"I didn't have to coach them much," Bourcier said. "They made slight moves and were just stroking the ball really well."
All the while Rhinelander was keeping an eye a couple of lanes over to its right as Merrill trailed Edgar-Athens 4-3 in the eighth game of their match. Edgar-Athens squeaked out a 165-162 to win in Game 8 to clinch the match and send Rhinelander to state. Merrill lost the match 6-3, with all six losses by 10 pins or less.
"The guys, when they got up to bowled, they concentrated, but when they were done, they were rooting each other on and also watching what was going on (with the Merrill-Athens/Edgar match)," Bourcier said. "We look over there and Athens squeaked up Game 8 to go up 5-3 and win their match and the boys just got all excited. They're clapping, hooting and hollering."
Schneider led the way for Rhinelander, filling 29 of his 34 frames on the day with 14 strikes. That was more than enough to keep him solidly inside the top eight in the individual conference standings and earn a spot in the singles state meet. His fill percentage was .884 for the season, placing third in the conference. By finishing inside the top five in the conference standings, Schneider also qualified to represent District 9 in the Wisconsin All-Star Team Challenge March 14 in Appleton.
Litzen was 26 of 34 with 14 strikes on the day, Wagler went 24 of 30 with 14 strikes, Jones and Bednarz each went 23 of 28 with 15 and 13 strikes, respectively. Jeremiah Braun was 20 of 26 with 10 strikes.
Girls split final matches
The Rhinelander/Elcho girls, who were all but mathematically eliminated from team state contention with a pair of losses Feb. 2, split their matches on Sunday. The Hodags beat Marshfield 7 1/2-1 1/2 but then lost to Amherst 8-1.
Rhinelander finished fourth in the Division 2 girls' standings and 5-5 overall. Only the top two teams qualified for state.
Juniors Katrina Blasius and Mackenzie Bourcier did well enough to hang on to their individual qualifying spots. Blasius was 27 of 36 with 13 strikes on the day as she finished with a .802 fill percentage on the season to place third in the final conference standings. Bourcier was 28 of 36 with 10 strikes as she finished fifth with a .782 fill rate.
It will be Bourcier's second trip to state as an individual and Blasius' first.
Bella Walkowski had the best day for Rhinelander on Sunday. She went 29 of 36 with 15 strikes. Senior Alexis Kriesel went 27 of 36 with 11 strikes and Paige Bailey was 5 of 36 with a strike.
"Alexis, nine opens on the day, that's phenomenal for her. She was picking up her spares and had 11 strikes on the day. She did really well," coach Bourcier said. "Overall, if you look at our main girls there, they did really well. They knew they were just bowling for the individuals today, not team (qualification) - as much as we would have liked to see that."
Middle schoolers finish with win
The Rhinelander middle school team closed out its season with a 5-4 win over Merrill Sunday afternoon.
The Hodags averaged 146.1 pins over the nine-game series, clinching the match with their highest game, a 158-125 victory in Game 8.
Blake Klingen led the team, going 14 of 18 on the day with five strikes. Payton McCue, Alex Hall and Calvin Welch all filled 10 of 18 frames and Johanna Dellenbach was 8 of 18.
"The kids were rolling the ball well at times and they looked like they were having fun and they win," coach Bourcier said. "They got their second win of the season. I know it's not where they're hoping to be, but when you have two new bowlers on the team and they're still learning and getting better - Calvin's the only eighth grader that would move on. The others, if they stay with it, they should be a good, solid team next year."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at
Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2020
Article comment by:
Congrats on a great season. Lets have a great state meet and continue to advance with new bowlers in the coming years. Hodag Proud. Enjoy the magic at the state meet. Lightning can strike twice!!
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