The Rhinelander High School softball team closed their 2017 season on road on Friday and fell 11-1 in six innings to top-seeded Rice Lake in the WIAA Division 2 regional final game. The Warriors are also ranked third overall in Division 2 softball.
Senior ace Ali Schickert recorded the loss for the Hodags' in her final varsity softball game. The Warriors cashed in on eight hits in five-innings to earn the 10-run victory. Schickert walked three while striking out eight on the night.
Rice Lake's Dana Covey led the team at the plate, finishing with four RBI's and two hits including a three-run homer in the bottom of the first. The Warriors would quickly regain the lead and held the momentum from there, scoring in every frame expect the second.
The Hodags started strong in the first, and would plate their lone run of the contest. Senior center fielder Ivy Packard led off with a bunt single. And Stephanie Kuester had a hard hit single down the third base line. A passed ball advanced Packard and Kuester into scoring position. Makayla Kuester drove in Packard on a ground, but that would the only run the Hodags' offense would generate.
But the Warriors responded right back to regain the lead that they would hold until the end. Brooklyn Scheurer had an infield single to third on a high bounce. Schickert got Emily Fell to strikeout but would then walk Sam Soley.
On the first pitch, Covey would homer to left field on a shot that hit off the scoreboard to put Rice Lake up 3-1. To prevent any further damage, Schickert would fan Jacky Robarge and Lexi Hutton to get out of the inning.
Rhinelander started the seconding off with a single up the middle from left-fielder Molly Wagler. On a wild pitch Wagler advanced to second, and with two outs Mikayla Evenstad hit a single blooper just passed the infield, as they played in on the slap-bunt.
But Evenstad was thrown out attempting to steal second with Packard at the plate. RHS would struggle from there and would not have another base runner until the fifth inning. Evenstad would have another single in the fifth but was left stranded.
Schickert and the Hodags' defense was able to keep the Warriors off the board in the second, but Rice Lake was consistent after that and would plate another two runs in the third. With two outs, Covey walked and Robarge had single to center to place runners on corners.
Hutton reached on a third-strike dropped ball and a run scored on the play. And Johanna Hrdlicka would reach on an infield error to plate another run. But catcher Makayla Kuester caught Hrdlicka stealing second to get out of the frame, with the Warriors leading 5-1.
Rice Lake would tack on three insurance runs in the fourth to put the game out of reach. Carlee Schwark singled to center, before back-to-back strikeouts. Yet again the Warriors rallied with two outs as Fell singled to shallow left and Soley had a RBI single to left. And Covey would then drive in another run on a stand-up double to the left field corner.
A hit and two errors on Rhinelander in the fifth would allow another Rice Lake run to come in, to give the Warrior a convincing 9-1 advantage.
The Hodags best chance at a comeback came in the top of the sixth inning. Makayla Kuester was robbed on a line drive out to second before senior Lindsey Juedes connected on a double to left field to spark the Hodags' offense. Fellow senior Erica Counter reached on error to place runners on corners. Wagler drew a walk to load the bases for Schickert. But Hutton at second would snatch Schickert's line-drive shot.
In the bottom of the sixth Fell had a bunt single for the Warriors before Coach DJ DeMeyer decided to honor his four starting seniors; Counter, Juedes, Packard, and Schickert, and pulled them off the field.
Mady Falstad of Rice Lake drove in Fell on an infield single to short before Hutton had the walk-off double to center to plate the final run and earn the mercy 10-run win and advance to WIAA Division 2 sectionals.
The Warriors will host Mosinee on Tuesday in the sectional semifinals, after the Indians used nine innings to defeat Antigo 8-6 on Friday night. The Hodags finished the year 13-10.
The Rhinelander High School softball team, seeded fourth defeated fifth-seed, Merrill 2-1 on Wednesday to advance to the WIAA Division 2 Regional finals. The Hodags produced their only two runs of the evening in the opening inning at Pioneer Park, and would fend off the Bluejays to earn the one run victory.
At the plate, Rhinelander was led by senior Erica Counter and junior Makayla Kuester who each recorded RBI singles to put the Hodags on board and proved enough for the win. Senior ace pitcher Ali Schickert recorded the win and worked all seven frames, allowing only two hits and striking out seven.
Rhinelander's defense was solid all night, as they only committed one error and held the Bluejays in check. In the opening frame, Merrill flew out in the first at bat and Schickert would tally back-to-back strikeouts.
Senior leadoff Ivy Packard started the rally with a single up the middle. Stephanie Kuester grounded out to advance Packard into scoring position. Makayla Kuester drove in Packard on a single to center. And after senior Lindsey Juedes grounded out, Counter responded on two outs. She also had an RBI single to center to give RHS a 2-0 lead. Molly Wagler grounded out to end the threat.
Junior Calli Oberg of Merrill started the second inning off with a hard-hit single passed short stop. Lindsey Casper grounded out and Taylor Krueger struck out. And on two outs with Megan Schroder at the plate, Oberg scored on a wild pitch to give the Bluejays their lone run of the contest.
The Hodags had several opportunities down the stretch to tack on some insurance runs, but were able to plate anymore runs. Stephanie Kuester had a stand-up double in the third, but was left stranded. And Packard had an infield single in the fifth but was caught stealing second. And Juedes was also left stranded at second base in the sixth after a dropped ball in center right.
Merrill but the pressure on Rhinelander's defense in the fourth inning, and nearly tied the game up 2-2. Maddix Bonnell walked to start and Oberg flew out to left field, marking one of several outs Wagler recorded in the outfield on the night. Calle Johnson had an infield single and a passed ball would advance the runners to second and third base.
Casper flew out to center, where Packard fired home and Bonnell appeared to beat out the tag to score. But after an appeal, the umpires declared Bonnell left before the ball was caught, taking away the tying run.
Merrill also had a chance in the fifth when Schroder walked and Kelsie Belfiori reached on error with two outs. But Schickert would fan Patience Pyan to get prevent any damage.
The Hodags' defense also made some routine plays in the sixth. Bonnell grounded out to Counter at shortstop to start. And after Oberg walked, Johnson reached on a fielder's choice that Counter got lead runner Bonnell out going to second. And Juedes would get the third and final out on a bunt single from Casper.
And in the final frame, Krueger flew out to Wagler in left. Schroder was hit by a pitch, but Madi Weix and Belfiori had back to back ground outs to end the contest.
The Hodags held on to advance to the WIAA Division 2 regional finals that will be held in Rice Lake on Friday night. First-pitch is set for 5:00PM.
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