The Rhinelander High School boys' tennis team charted their fifth straight Great Northern Conference title. The Hodags cruised to titles in five flights and finished runner-up in the remaining two flights at Elleson Tennis Courts in Antigo on Friday. RHS recorded 38 points on the day and also matched their own team recorded they set last season.
Although Rhinelander actually clenched the conference title before play began Friday morning, after they held a 36-point lead. All seven flights for RHS earned first-round byes
"We took some lumps earlier in the week but came out on a mission today," Coach Bob Heideman said. "We hit on all cylinders today and that was led by our five seniors. The first class to win a conference championship all four years since I don't know when."
Rhinelander senior Markus Johnson earned the GNC single player of the year and would get back to strong serving to cruise to wins against Antigo's Tanner Stueck and Medford's Alec Shear. In the semifinal round Johnson defeated Stueck 6-4, 6-3 and in the finals he downed Shear 6-3, 6-3.
"He has paid his dues, well deserved and much easier than his first match with Alec," Heideman said of Johnson.
At No. 3 singles, Rhinelander freshman Jacob Weddle breezed through his competition against Jarrett Shields of Pacelli and Sterling Reilly of Medford. In the semifinal round, Weddle won 6-1, 6-1 over Shields and in the championship match he cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 win over Reilly.
After falling in three-set matches earlier in the week, junior Freddy Wisner at No. 4 singles battled his way back to earn the GNC title. Wisner was down 4-5 in the second set and down love-40 in the game, he fended off three consecutive points and forced a third set tiebreaker. Wisner used that momentum to push through and closed the match 7-5, 7-.
"We had some close sets, but generally came out okay," said Hedieman. "Freddy had to put together a streak of 11 straight points to pull out his last set."
In doubles action, Jared Fabich and Grant Gilbert at the No. 2 doubles flight defeated Medford's Armin Kliewe and Logan Searles 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals. Gilbert/Fabich finished the day strong with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Jared McFarlane and Zach Reineke of Antigo.
"Grant and Jared played perhaps their best set of the year in their last set," noted Heideman. "Cade and Logan had a close set in the semis."
Also winning in doubles for Rhinelander was Logan Oestreich and Cade Aschenbrenner at the third doubles flight. In the semifinals Aschenbrenner/Oestreich fended off Carson Kleist and Zach Kawa of Medford 6-1, 7-5. And the Hodag duo downed Pacelli's Andrew Pisaraski and Isaac Kosoloucki of Pacelli 6-1, 6-2 in the championship round.
At the top doubles flight, Connor Young and Jared Haug started the day strong with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Antigo's Joe Barletti and Brody Bunnell. But in the finals would fall to 2-6, 6-7 to Lakeland's Jack Garcia and Anthony Holmes and the Hodag duo would earn runner-up.
Russell Benoy at No. 2 singles earned runner-up and started with a forfeit win before falling 4-6, 2-6 to Pacelli's Corey Baron in the finals.
"Russell and No. 1 doubles had much closer matches with their opponents in the championship match than earlier this year," Heideman said. "They walked off the courts with the sense they had upped their games."
Rhinelander will now focus on playoffs and will host the WIAA subsectionals at the RHS Tennis Courts on Monday. The top four finishers at No. 1 singles and doubles as well as the top two finishers in the remaining flights will advance to the Kohler sectionals.
The Rhinelander High School softball team rallied back in game one against Tomahawk on Thursday to split a doubleheader at Pioneer Park. The Hodags would score two runs in the seventh to comeback to defeat the Hatchets 3-2 but that momentum quickly wore off in the second game of the evening, and Tomahawk proved to be solid at the plate and earned the 12-2 win, marking another split series for RHS this season.
Ace Stephanie Kuester broke open the pitching dual when she scored the first run of the night on a solo homer down the right field line in the third frame. But Tomahawk fought back and scored in the top of the fifth when a throw to first base was dropped on two outs, allowing Jordyn Kaminski of the Hatchets to score.
Then in the final inning, Kaminski started off with a double for Tomahawk and would score on a sacrifice fly by Courtney Theiler which would give the Hatchets a one-run advantage.
But the Hodags struck when it counted the most to answer in bottom of the seventh. With nobody on and two outs, Cami Buchmann reached on an error while Tomahawk intentionally walked Stephanie Kuester who was 3-for-3 at the plate up to that point. Mikayla Evenstad had a perfectly placed slap-blooper to shallow right down the line. Buchmann was able to beat out a throw to the plate to tie the game 2-2.
And once again, the Hatchets intentionally walked Makayla Kuester which brought sophomore Ella Mullikin up the plate. Mullikin beat out the throw on a swinging bunt down the third-base line, which allowed Stephanie Kuester to score from third, which gave the Hodags the one-run victory.
Despite five errors for Rhinelander's defense, they still charted the win with Stephanie Kuester only giving up two-hits while walking four and striking out three.
The Hodags finished with six hits off Tomahawk pitcher Rachel Dallman and scored three runs. Dallman walked four batters all intentionally and struck out 11.
But Game 2 proved to be a different story, where the Hatchets plated 10 runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings against Molly Wagler to earn the 10-run victory.
Tomahawk plated twice in the first frame and would stay ahead from that point. The Hatchets biggest inning was in the fourth when they cashed in on seven big runs to blow the game out.
Rhinelander's only two runs came from Makayla Kuester who connected on a two-RBI double in the fifth. But the Tomahawk would clench the winning run in the sixth after scoring on a wild pitch.
The Hodags earned a three-seed for the WIAA playoffs and will face sixth-seed Lakeland on Wednesday night at Pioneer Park. The winner will advance to the regional final game on Thursday that will be held in Merrill.
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