By Kelly O’Day
The Bluejay baseball team built a travel day into its early line-up due to the sketchy nature of early-season ball in northern Wisconsin, and found a willing partner again in Antigo. The squads traveled to Mauston’s Woodside Sports Complex for Saturday’s double-header, where they could be assured of perfect turf.
They got their turf, but the nasty weather followed.
“It was cold and windy,” MHS coach Brian Artac said. “There were 30 mile-per-hour winds out of the west and it was 47-48 degrees. It was cold.”
But there was baseball.
Merrill jumped right out of the blocks in the opener, ripping into a 9-2.
“We played really well in the first game,” Artac said. “We really did. We didn’t have an error and we had 10 hits. That’s not a bad start. We had really good pitching, too.
“Seth Collins was the winning pitcher. I hope he can throw without soreness (on Monday), because he had a rough year throwing last year.”
The Jays scored solo runs in the second and fourth innings, then made it 4-0 in the fifth. They pushed it all the way to 9-0 in the top of the seventh, before Antigo finally scored a meaningless pair at the end.
The Bluejay offense was paced by Justin Pyan (3-4, 2B, 1 R), Jared Schmeltzer (2-2), Seth Collins (1-3, 2B, 2 RBI, 1 R), Dylan Anderson (1-1, 1 R), Ryan Golisch (1-2, 2B, 1 R), Adam Messerschmidt (1-4, 2 RBI), Mason Reinhardt (1-5, 1 RBI), Tyler Belfiori (0-0, 2 R) and Trey Stevenson (0-3, 2 R).
Collins (2 H, 0 W, 2 K, 0 R in 3 I) took the win, and Collin Grefe (1 H, 0 W, 0 R in 2 I) and Golisch (1 H, 3 W, 2 R, 2 ER in 2 I) relieved.
Merrill fell 4-3 in the second game and had chances to win despite committing five errors.
“We should have won both games,” Artac said. “Antigo beat us in both games last year. It would have been nice to return the favor. That would have been a real nice start to the season. It was still not a bad day overall.
“After we came back to tie the game 2-2, they came up with two big runs in the sixth inning.
“We had bases loaded in the fifth and didn’t score. Those are things we’re going to learn. We’re young. Golisch drove in a run in the seventh, so we had a guy on first, down one (run). We had our opportunities to come home with two wins.”
Doubles by Hoff and Stevenson led to a first-inning run, and Reinhardt doubled, stole third and scored on Stevenson’s hit in the fifth. But MHS loaded the path after that but didn’t score again until the Golisch RBI single in the seventh.
Merrill out-hit Antigo 7-4 in the second game.
Leading the Merrill offense were Stevenson (2-3, 2B, 2 RBI, 1 R), Golisch (2-3, 1 RBI), Belfiori (1-2), Hoff (1-3, 2B, 1 R) and Reinhardt (1-4, 2B, 1 R).
Pyan (2 H, 2 W, 3 K, 2 R, 0 ER in 3 I), Belfiori (1 H, 1 W, 1 K, 2 R, 0 ER in 3 I) and Hoff (1 H, 2 W, 0 R in 1 I) shared pitching duties.
Other than the six errors, Artac was pleased with many of the things he saw on the field.
“Trevor Asmundsen made 2-3 really good plays at second base; one a diving snag of a line drive,” Artac said. “Hoff threw a kid out a third. We had a relay to home to get a guy at the plate.
“They tried to steal their fastest guy in the first inning, and (catcher Mason) Reinhardt gunned him out by 12 feet. That puts the kibosh on their running game if you can do that to one of their fastest guys.
“Our pitching the whole day was good. We threw three kids in each game, so six different kids pitched. That’s going to be a good thing for us.”
Artac liked the challenge Antigo presented.
“They’re a decent team,” he said. “They’re picked to win the Great Northern. They played with Sun Prairie on Thursday for much of the game. Sun Prairie is rated #1 in the state. After our games, the ump told me, ‘You have a nice team.’ ”
Playing at the complex offered a big step up from practice conditions.
“It’s fast,” Artac said. “You don’t get any bad hops. The day before we were on a tarpon on the gym floor.”