Tough losses take down Junior Legion boys

The state tournament run didn’t go exactly the way Merrill’s Junior Legion 16U baseball team had hoped.
After the boys lost an 8-3 opener to Holmen on Wednesday, they were fighting for their tournament lives against host Mayville on Thursday.
Merrill turned a 3-3 game its way with a two-run 6th, but Mayville knotted it up in the bottom of the 7th before a balk scored the deciding run.
“It was brutal,” Merrill manager John Annis said. “The umpire said he flinched a little bit, enough to cause a balk. The kids were pretty upset with the way they lost. It’s tough to end a great season on a balk, really tough.
“Overall we were never out of either of the games. They essentially never gave up. It was definitely a team anyone would enjoy coaching. There’s a lot of talent in that class.”
Merrill grabbed a 3-0 lead in the top of the 2nd, after an error, a Logan Brunett walk, David Pophal two-run double and Ty Grunenwald RBI hit.
Mayville cut it to 3-2 in the bottom of the inning with a walk and two hits, then tied it in the 4th with an error-assist.
Grunenwald tripled to lead off the 5th, but stranded there. Next batter Kevin Bolder did line out to the shortstop. Pophal ripped a two-out, two-run double in the 6th, after a Ben Hintze single and an error. Bolder doubled to lead off the 7th, and Brian Stockowitz singled him to 3rd and reached second on a throwing error, but they stuck there.
Two Mayville walks and two singles in the 7th scored a pair of runs and left two in scoring position with two outs, but the balk ended the game.
Pophal (3-4, 2-2B, 4 RBI), Grunenwald (2-3, 3B) and Hintze (2-4) helped Merrill reach 9 hits.
“We just couldn’t string them together,” Annis said.
Alex Klug (3 H, 2 W, 3 K, 3 R, 2 ER in 4 I) started, and Bolder (3 H, 4 W, 4 K, 3 R, 3 ER in 3 I) lost.
Holmen away
Merrill held a slim 2-1 lead after 3 innings, due to a Brunett walk, two errors and a Stockowitz RBI single. But Holmen scored 2 in the 4th, 3 in the 5th and 2 in the 6th to put it away. A Grunenwald single and Klug RBI double in the 5th cut it to 6-3.
“The first game we had a lot of hard-hit balls that got caught,” Annis said. “Either an outfielder made a great play or we hit it right at someone. Unfortunately, Holmen was hitting it where we weren’t.”
Merrill finished with just 4 hits.
Bolder (5 H, 3 W, 5 K, 6 R, 3 ER in 4-2/3 I) took the loss and Stockowitz (2 H, 0 W, 1 K, 2 R, 0 ER in 2-1/3 I) relieved.

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