Legion comes up just short of Ranger hardware

Merrill’s American Legion baseball team was rained out of two more games last week, but hit a bonanza in last weekend’s Ranger Invitational at Wisconsin Rapids.
The locals were then edged 2-1 in Monday’s pitchers’ duel with Stevens Point.
Post 46 won the first three games of the weekend’s five-team round-robin event before dropping a 3-1 contest to Beloit in the finale. It cost them the title since Beloit captured the fewer-runs-allowed tiebreaker.
Green Bay Southwest also lost just once, but took themselves out of title consideration on the same grounds due to their 19-9 loss in five innings to Merrill on Saturday.
“We showed we’re very capable of hitting the ball well and we’ve got some pitching,” Merrill manager Rob Klug said. “On the negative side, we continue to beat ourselves with errors on routine plays. Against good teams, if you continue to make mistakes you’re going to lose games.”
The locals put themselves in championship position with Friday’s 7-1 victory over Rapids, and Saturday’s triumph over Green Bay Southwest and 12-8 comeback victory over Altoona.
“Our bats really came alive,” Klug said. “In a tournament like that you’ve got to have pitching and guys really stepped up especially (Kyle) Rajek. Dylan (Burkam) threw a lot. It’s not necessarily throwing as hard as you can, it’s the importance of throwing strikes.”
Beloit scored the only run of the first four innings in the top of the first. Merrill loaded the bases in the second but a strikeout ended the threat, and Burkam picked a runner off third to kill a Beloit golden opportunity.
Beloit bumped it to 3-0 in the fifth with a pair of hits, a grounder and a squeeze bunt. Post 46 finally got on the board in the seventh, with a Rajek one-out triple and Jordan Burton two-out single. A fly out ended the game.
Merrill out-hit Beloit 6-5, with Burton going 2-2. He also singled and stole second with one out in the fifth, but got stuck there.
Burkam (5 H, 0 W, 4 K, 3 R 3 ER in 5 I) took the loss and Luke Golisch (0 H, 0 W, 3 K, 0 R in 2 I) relieved.
Heating up Southwest
Merrill trailed 2-0 in Saturday’s first game when the boys exploded for 10 runs, batting 1-1/2 times through the order with help from four extra outs. Two-run singles by Kyle Kubichek and John Koehler, and RBI singles by Alex Cordova and Burkam-his second single of the inning-provided the fire. Golisch also reached safely twice, scoring both times, with a double and walk.
Green Bay cut it to 10-7 in the bottom of the inning, as Merrill gave all four miscues back, including two as a set-up to a home run.
But Post 46 got four back in the fourth while batting through the order. An error and three consecutive walks, a Cordova RBI single and Michael Detert two-run hit did that damage.
Southwest pulled within 14-9 in the fourth, but Merrill reached 10-run-rule territory with five in the top of the fifth. Cordova’s RBI double got it going, and Golisch and Detert singles and a Alex Ruge grounder pushed runs across.
Golisch (0 H, 1 W, 1 K, 0 R in 1 I) came on to close the win out early. Cordova (4 H, 3 W, 2 K, 9 R, 2 ER in 4 I) picked up the win.
Cordova batted 4-5 with two doubles and 3 RBI. Golisch (2-4), Detert (2-5, 3 RBI), Burkam (2-4) and Koehler (1-2, 3 RBI) chipped in big.
Rollin’ over Toona
Merrill’s five-run rally in the top of the seventh provided the lead and more in a seesaw contest. Matt Woller and Golisch walks and two errors kicked it off, and Koppelman’s walk gave a 9-8 lead. Kubichek’s two-run double provided breathing room and Rajek’s sac fly pushed it to 12-8.
Post 46 had scored once in each of the first two innings, although base-running gaffes in the second may have cost them more. Altoona made Merrill pay with six in the bottom of the frame, all unearned including a three-run double.
But Merill immediately knotted it at 6-6 with four in the third. Singles by Detert and Burkam and a Koppelman walk loaded the bases for Kubichek’s two-run single, and Rajek followed with an RBI double. Alex Cordova’s run-scoring single tied it, but Rajek was caught at the plate.
Altoona made it 8-6 in the bottom of the inning with help from an unearned run.
Post 46 cut it to 8-7 in the sixth when Detert was hit by a pitch and balked home after walks to Kubichek and Rajek.
Cordova (3-5, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI), Kubichek (2-3, 2B, 4 RBI), Rajek (1-2, 2B, 2 RBI), Koppelman (3 W, 2 R) and Detert (1-3, 3 R) pushed the offense that ended up with 10 hits.
Tim Jahnke (7 H, 5 W, 1 K, 8 R, 1 ER in 2 I) and Rajek (3 H, 0 W, 2 K, 0 R in 3-1/3 I) set up the win for Golisch (0 H, 1 W, 4 K, 0 R in 1-2/3 I).
The locals jump-started their tourney with a 7-1 win over their hosts despite allowing the first Rapids batter to score for a 1-0 lead.
Post 46 knotted it in the second after Koppelman was hit by a pitch, Woller singled and Rajek walked. Jahnke grounded in the run.
Merrill added pairs of runs in the third and fourth, and solo scores in the fifth and seventh. Detert and Rajek had RBI singles in the third, and Golisch and Burkam matched them in the fourth, but Post 46 left the bases loaded in both frames after stranding two in the second.
In the fifth, Burton singled, stole second and took third on a wild pitch, before scoring on Cordova’s sac fly. But for the fourth consecutive inning, at least two runners in scoring position stranded due to a strikeout.
Golisch singled and scored with help from two grounders in the seventh.
Golisch (4-5, 2 R), Cordova (3-4, 2 R), Detert (3-5) and Rajek (2-3) boosted Merrill to 15 hits.
Burkam (3H, 1 W, 6 K, 1 R, 1 ER in 7 I) pitched a complete-game gem.
Cordova-who had recently been named First Team All-State-finished the tourney on an 11-18 tear (.611), with 6 RBI, 6 runs and 4 doubles.
“The first two days, he was absolutely on fire,” Klug said. “He was just hitting the ball hard. Even some of his outs, he hit the ball well. Against Green Bay, he had an F8 that may have been on the warning track.”
Point of contention
Post 46 held an 8-3 margin in hits, but a bomb by Point’s Ryan Williams in the sixth inning provided the winning edge.
“Tim Jahnke pitched his best game,” Klug said. “He gave up only 3 hits, only one of them left the infield and the one that did was a home run. We came close to taking the lead in the top of the sixth when Jack Osness hit a double off the wall in left center. I think if he had hit the same ball in one of the first three innings the wind would have carried it out.”
Jahnke (3 H, 3 W, 0 K, 2 R, 1 ER in 6 I) pitched well enough to win, but a lead-off error in the third, a single, sacrifice and fielder’s choice scored on in the third.
Merrill had a chance for a big fifth, but Burton singled and was caught stealing. Cordova singled and Golisch hit an RBI double to tie it at 1-1. Osness doubled with two out in the sixth and stranded.
Osness (2-3, 2B) and Golisch (2-4, 2B) paced Post 46.
Merrill was at 4-3 after the loss.

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