The Rhinelander High School softball team finished their 2018 season after falling to Merrill 10-3 on Thursday in the WIAA regional finals held at Merrill Area Rec Center. The Bluejays would take the lead for good and plated four runs with two outs in the second frame and would never look back and continued to build their lead aided by a few Hodag errors. On the evening RHS would collect 10 hits but would strand several runners in scoring position.
Rhinelander would get on the board first in the opening inning. Ella Mullikin cashed in on a two-out RBI single to center. Senior Molly Wagler followed with an RBI double to right center to give the Hodags an early 2-0 advantage.
But Merrill would answer in the bottom of the second when they would come back to tie the game and added two more runs to take a 4-2 lead. Lindsey Casper of the Bluejays started with standup double to left. Megan Schroder walked and Makayla Heller had a bunt out but advanced both runners into scoring position. Madisen Weix popped out to Makayla Kuester at short before Kelsie Belfiori drew a walk to load the bases.
Patience Pyan of the Bluejays would then connect on a two-RBI single to center to tie the game up. Maddix Bonnell would follow after a double-steal and charted another two-RBI single for Merrill to put them ahead by two-runs. RHS got out of the jam when Casper popped out to Makayla Kuester at short.
Rhinelander would get back a run in the fourth after seniors Hope Wissbroecker and Tori Roberts singled up the middle. Stephanie Kuester would then drive in Wissbroecker on a line drive down the third base line.
The Bluejays would once again respond and added one more run in the bottom of the fourth and would add another five runs in the fifth and sixth inning. Belfiori singled to left center and Bonnell reached on an infield single before Calli Oberg had a sacrifice fly.
Mullikin and Wissbroecker each hit single bloopers to center in the top of the fifth but were left stranded for Rhinelander. And in the bottom of the frame, Merrill took advantage of two errors and would add three more runs to their lead. Casper singled to right and would advance to second on a wild pitch and then stole third. Heller walked and Weix reached on error, allowing a run to score. Belfiori reached on a throwing error to put runners on corners. And Pyan would put Merrill up 8-3 after an RBI single to left.
In the sixth Merrill charted their last two runs of the night and started when Casper doubled to left center with one out. Heller walked with two outs before Weix and Schroder each reached on errors and allowing a pair of runs to score.
Stephanie Kuester took the loss in the circle and allowed six earned runs on 12 hits. Rhinelander's offense was led by Mullikin who went 3-for-4 and Wissbroecker who went 2-for-3. Stephanie Kuester went 2-for-4 from the plate but twin sister Makayla Kuester who was consistently one of the Hodags’ top offensive weapons this season went 0-for-4.
It was the final high school game for six Rhinelander seniors and starters; Cami Buchmann, Makayla Kuester, Stephanie Kuester, Roberts, Wagler, and Wissobroecker. RHS went 12-11 on the season and look forward to will look to start rebuilding their young upcoming squad to prepare for 2019.
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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