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.