Post 46 ups level of play, comes up just shy in own tourney
The American Legion Post 46 baseball team showed some of its best ball of the summer this past weekend in the Merrill Invitational, but still suffered the disappointment of several close losses.
Post 46 posted a 1-3 record in the round-robin event, but led late in two of those losses and fell by a pair of runs in another.
“Overall, they played really well,” Merrill manager John Annis said. “It’s probably the best we’ve played all season. We ended up 1-3 but we could have easily been 3-1, or even 4-0, honestly. That’s just how baseball goes. We make a few plays here, get a couple of hits there and it’s a different story.
“I could tell they were upset, but overall they stayed pretty positive and continued to battle. They definitely weren’t satisfied losing by 1-2 runs. It’s almost like it was a different team out there.”
The weather and volunteer support just amplified the team effort music.
“You couldn’t ask for better weather, and the parents helped out so much,” Annis said. “The teams were more than pleased with the tournament and the facilities. I don’t think we had a single complaint.
“It was nice to see a little different competition. They have different styles and it’s good to see how they do things.”
Merrill opened with Friday’s 13-3 rout of Rhinelander, exploding for seven in the 4th after falling behind 3-0 in the 3rd. Two-run homers by Cole Gustke and Alex Cordova powered the outburst.
Post 46 kept it rolling with two in the 5th, one in the 6th and three in the 7th.
Brad Juhlke (3 H, 8 W, 12 K, 3 R, 1 ER in 6 I) picked up the win and Brian Stockowitz (1 H, 1 W, 2 K, 0 R in 1 I) closed it out.
Holmen – the eventual tourney winner – battled back from Friday’s 5-1 deficit with three in the bottom of the 6th, tied it up in the 7th and won it 6-5 in the 8th.
Merrill almost got out of the 6th unscathed, but Coleton Bloch was unable to handle a two-out high hopper to the mound that shortstop Cordova had covered behind him. A two-run error followed.
Klug pounded a two-run homer in the 5th in a 2-4 day. Ben Anderson (3-5, 2B), Tom Zuelsdorff (2-4) and Garrett Pagel (1-4, 2B) helped Merrill reach 10 hits.
Bloch (5 H, 7 W, 2 K, 5 R, 3 ER in 6-1/3 I) started and Cordova (1 H, 0 W, 2 K, 1 R, 0 ER in 1-2/3 I) closed.
The RSW finale on Sunday featured a fluky finish. Post 46 held a 3-1 lead and hammered a pair of line drives directly at RSW fielders in the sixth. RSW tied it up with an assortment of bad hops and chinkers before surging ahead to the 6-3 final with a couple of smash hits in a five-run 7th.
A Zuelsdorff RBI grounder and Cordova two-run double gave Merrill a 3-0 lead in the 2nd. Merrill was limited to just 4 hits and 5 walks, with 3 free bases to Ty Grunenwald.
Cordova (10 H, 2 W, 5 K, 6 R, 4 ER in 7 I) took the loss.
Post 46 held a 2-1 edge in the 5th inning of Saturday’s game with Beloit, but Beloit slipped ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the frame and tacked on an insurance run in the 6th.
Cordova doubled and scored on an error in the 1st, and Ben Hintze hit a solo homer in the 5th. Ben Anderson had the only other Merrill hit.
Stockowitz (7 H, 3 W, 3 K, 4 R, 4 ER in 6