The Rhinelander High School baseball team under head Coach Joe Waksmonski enter the 2019 season with plenty of question marks and several voids to fill for the upcoming season. The Great Northern Conference contests will also have a new format this season. Despite the obstacles, Rhinelander still returns several top players to their young lineup and will continue to battle and push for the top of the conference with a season that will likely get a late start.
The Hodags lost a core group of seniors to graduation including Brad Comer, Jacob DeMeyer, Brad Quade, Cole Spaulding, and Owen White who all earned all-conference recognition last year. Comer and DeMeyer also each earned all-state recognition from the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association. Rhinelander returns senior Bryce Schickert to their lineup, who was the only non-senior Hodag to earn GNC honors. Schickert was honorable mention for pitching as a junior.
Last season RHS finished third in the conference standings at 6-6 and would finish 12-11 overall. Rhinelander raced out to a hot start to the season and were 9-0 before the doubleheaders and late start to the season took its toll. This season the GNC will feature a new format for their 12 conference contests. So instead of of each team playing each other once during the first six games and again in the final six games they will now play a home-and-home series.
The new format would allow each team to to get their two conference games played in three days. The first team would host on Tuesday and then on Thursday would travel. It was implemented to help with the fairness in pitching for the teams. So teams will need to manage and adjust knowing they are unable to pitch the same pitcher against the same team twice. It will also help with makeup dates which Northern Wisconsin is accustomed to with the late start to the season.
Rhinelander was runner-up last season in runs averaged as well as runs given up. The Hodags were behind Antigo in both categories and averaged 6.1 per contest and gave up 3.4 per game. Returning this season, the Hodags' most experience comes from the pitching mound. Schickert and fellow senior Josh Randolph return as the teams' top pitchers this season.
Schickert tied for second in the GNC in individual strikeouts with 20 last season and had the fourth best ERA in the conference at 2.49 in 19 2/3 innings pitched. While Randolph also made the top of the GNC with 16 strikeouts with a 0.49 ERA in 14 1/3 innings pitched. At the plate Schickert also added eight hits that included three doubles and six RBI's.
In the sumer, the Rhinelander Post 7 Rebels went 10-0 in conference play to win their third straight title and bring plenty of depth back to their lineup for the spring high school season. The Hodags return a pair of first-team all GNLC players; outfielder Abe Laggis and catcher Martin Hoger. Schickert was second-team all GNLC pitcher and Randolph was also second team as an infielder.
Laggis led the league in batting average at .705 as well as on getting on base while playing in six conference games. He was 12 of 17 from the plate including six RBI's. Randolph hit a .471 in league play as well.
Rhinelander returns several other players with plenty of varsity experience either from last season or during summer league including Eric Grulke, Walker Hartman, Martin Hoger, Teagan Gukenberg, Payton Johnson, Liam Stevens, and Danny Zuiker. Stevens added three doubles and five RBI's for the Hodags in the GNC while Grulke finished with 10 hits and six RBI's in the conference.
The Hodags opening game on April 2nd at Merrill was postponed, so their first contest will be Saturday when they travel to Green Bay. The doubleheader against Notre Dame De La Baie Academy is set for noon. Rhinelander will then open their Great Northern Conference schedule on Tuesday April, 9th against Tomahawk for a doubleheader. That contest has been changed to be played at Wausau East at 4:00PM. RHS is set to have their first home-game of the season when they host Antigo on Thursday April, 18th.