Merrill 10U All-Stars capture District 5 title

The Merrill Little League 10U baseball team finally suffered a setback in the District 5 tournament last Thursday, and the very Antigo hands that gave it that 16-3 loss would try for the knockout punch the next day.
But the Merrill boys proved to be supremely resilient, bouncing Antigo from Friday’s championship finale by an 11-8 score.
“That last game was the best all-around game of the whole tournament,” Merrill manager Steve Kufahl said. “They played smart defense, hit the ball well and ran the bases well. It doesn’t matter which kid I put on the field, every kid on that team has contributed.
“We started a little slow but we just kept pecking away. They were ready to play (Friday).”
That fourth victory of the tourney has qualified the squad for the Little League State Tournament, which will be held in West Madison starting this Friday. The six-team round-robin field will play daily until the top two teams square off in next Wednesday’s final.
“They’re really excited,” Kufahl said. “To see them when they won, me, Tim (Anderson) and Jeff (Hintze) just watched their faces. I told Jeff and Tim, ‘That’s what it’s all about, those faces right there.’ All of them are looking forward to going down there.”
In the final, Merrill’s 1-0 edge quickly became a 4-1 deficit in the bottom of the 1st. But Kordell Reken would blank Antigo for the next two innings, and his teammates would tally 2 in the 2nd and 4 in the 3rd for a 7-4 lead.
Hunter Hintze was hit by a pitch, stole 2nd and scored on a Renken single in the 1st. Hits by Quinn Steckbauer and Hintze boosted the 2nd and singles by Riley Anderson, Chase Bonnell, Caleb Gustafson and Steckbauer powered the 3rd.
Three more in the 4th-Bonnell, Devon Waldburger and Hintze had hits-would push it to 10-4, although Antigo would cut it to 10-6 in the 5th. Antigo out-scored Merrill 2-1 in the 6th.
Renken (2-2, 2 W, HBP) reached base all 5 times, and Bonnell (2-3, 2 R), Steckbauer (2-4, 2 R) and Hintze (2-4, 2 R) helped Merrill to 12 hits.
Renken (1 H, 4 W, 3 K, 4 R in 3 I) picked up the win, and Bonnell (4 H, 2 W, 3 K, 4 R in 3 I) relieved.
DCE demolition
Merrill had won the winner’s bracket final by a 12-1 triumph over D.C. Everest on Tuesday.
“Zach Anderson threw a complete game that saved us on pitching the rest of the week,” Kufahl said. “As the game went on he got stronger. Kole (Meyer) stepped up real big and they weren’t cheap shots either.”
Anderson (4 H, 1 W, 3 K, 1 R in 5 I) only allowed one base-runner in the last three innings, on a 2-out walk.
Meyer hit 2-3 with 5 RBI, including the final 3 on a bases-loaded double that ended the game early.
Everest threatened in the 1st, but a throw from right field by Renken caught a base-runner at the plate. Everest did manage a run in the 2nd, but Merrill would respond with 3 in the 3rd, 5 in the 4th and 4 in the 5th.
Singles by Gustafson, Hintze, Ben Spiegelhoff, and Riley and Zach Anderson pushed the 3rd. Jaden Beyer led off the 4th with a hit and Meyer and Bonnell each drove in a pair with singles. Walks by Beyer, Steckbauer and Hintze loaded the path for Renken’s RBI hit and Meyer’s double.
Antigo stumble
Antigo kicked off Thursday’s game with 5 runs, and boosted its 5-2 lead with 2 in the 2nd, 3 in the 3rd, and 6 in the 4th.
“Their heads weren’t there,” Kufahl said. “Even before the game they didn’t seem the same. Antigo came to play, no doubt about it. That’s a good ball team.”
Five different Merrill batters-Steckbauer, Hintze, Spiegelhoff, Waldburger and Bonnell-hit singles.
Antigo managed 8 hits and 13 walks off a platoon of Steckbauer, R. Anderson, Meyer and Bonnell.

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