Merrill baseball uses big seventh inning in regional semifinal win
By Jared Schmeltzer
The Merrill baseball team started heating up at the end of the season, winning six of their last nine regular season games. The Jays carried that momentum into Thursday’s playoff game, where they used a four-run seventh inning to defeat Wausau East 11-7 in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal.
“I think we played well together,” said Merrill’s starting pitcher for the game, Holden Smith. “We strung hits together when we needed to and that’s something we have been improving on as the season goes. We have been focusing on hitting the ball up the middle, against East we did that and success came with it.”
Wausau East scored one run in their half of the fourth, followed by three runs in the bottom of the sixth, tying the game at 7-7. Merrill’s four-run seventh inning started with a Pyan double to center field. A Renken Walk then set up Peyton Becker for his two-run single to right field. Jayden Sus drew a walk to put a runner in scoring position for Hoffman, who singled to center field, driving in Becker. Schneider then added the cherry on top, driving in Sus on a line drive to center field. In the bottom of the seventh, East would go down in order, as Merrill earned the victory.
“We are very confident going into the next round,” said Merrill left fielder Piersen Pyan. “We are hitting the ball hard and getting it in play when we need it the most. I believe if we play the way we are capable of, there isn’t a team that can beat us.
“I also think we can be more consistent defensively. We have been alright, but the mistakes we had in this game gave East five free runs, we can improve on that.”
Merrill will travel to Antigo on May 28, for the regional final, starting at 5 p.m.
The Lumberjacks got on the scoreboard first, with one run in the bottom of the second inning. Merrill came back with four runs in the top of the third. Casey Hoffman led off the inning singling to left field. An error and a walk then loaded the bases for Piersen Pyan. Pyan ripped a triple to right field, effectively scoring three Bluejay runs. Pyan then scored on a ground out by Kordell Renken.
Following a two run bottom of the third for the Lumberjacks, Merrill scored three runs in the top of the fourth inning. A Spencer Schneider double set up Cody Depies with runners on second and third base. Depies reached base on an error and both runners would cross the plate. Chase Bonnell then hit a hard grounder passed the East shortstop, scoring Depies.