Photos by Nick Sabato/Lakeland TimesLakeland’s Caleb Menzia rounds third base during the sixth inning of a 16-11 win over Medford on Thursday, May 17.
Photos by Nick Sabato/Lakeland Times


Lakeland’s Caleb Menzia rounds third base during the sixth inning of a 16-11 win over Medford on Thursday, May 17.
With its playoff fate set, Lakeland Union High School had a pair of baseball doubleheaders to wrap up the regular season.

The Thunderbirds have been on fire after a slow start to the season and hoped to stay that way with a double-dip on Thursday to complete the Great Northern Conference slate against Medford before traveling to Kingsford, Mich., on Saturday.



Timely hitting

Lakeland's hot streak at the plate continued right from the jump, as Jamie Slavinsky hit a 2-run bomb in the bottom of the first and Gunnar Weitz hit a solo blast to lead off the third to jump out to a 4-0 lead.

The T-Birds would have to hold off a surge by Medford that saw the visitors score three in the top of the fourth, but Connor Higgins stole home and Austin Wanty added an RBI single for insurance in the bottom of the sixth to come away with a 6-4 win.

"Two-out RBIs are game-changers and we got a bunch of those tonight," Wilhelm said. "Our seniors really put the ball in play and put it on their backs to push us through."

Wanty also went six innings on the hill, allowing three runs on nine hits, while Caleb Menzia picked up his second save in as many games.



Offensive onslaught

In the second game of the doubleheader, a pitcher's duel through three innings quickly turned into a slugfest.

Lakeland scored five runs in the top of the fourth to take a 6-0 lead but Medford came back with seven in the bottom of the inning.

The T-Birds didn't stay grounded, putting up 10 runs in the final two innings to come away with a 16-11 win to earn the sweep.

"We can score, we knew we could hit that guy and force the action and that's what we did," Wilhelm said. "The resiliency we displayed and our mentality at the plate was great."

Two seniors in particular have been leading the charge as of late. Weitz has gone 7 for 20 with, two homers, seven RBIs and 10 runs during the six-game winning streak.

Meanwhile, Jamie Slavinsky has been white-hot, going 14 for 22 in his last six games, with 12 RBIs and eight runs.

"The last four games he's been red-hot, he's been scorching the ball," Wilhelm said. "We moved him back to the third spot to hopefully get a few more guys on for him and hopefully getting Caleb a few more good pitches, too. That's the kind of hitter (Slavinsky) can be."

Slavinsky went 2 for 4 with four RBIs, while Weitz and Menzia had two RBIs apiece.



Cooling off

Lakeland's winning streak was snapped in the first game at Kingsford.

With the game scoreless heading into the top of the fourth, Austin Wanty gave the T-Birds the lead on an RBI single, but the Flivvers responded with four runs in the bottom of the fourth and five in the fifth to win 10-4.

"That's a team that can hit pretty well and we knew that from playing them last year," Wilhelm said. "They're a team that can put the bat on the ball and put it in play and our bats had cooled off. I don't know if it was because of the long bus ride, but we cooled off in Game 1 and we didn't get key hits when we needed to and they did."

Weitz had another big game, going 3 for 4. Meanwhile Slavinsky, Tate Olson and Tim Crisco all had RBIs.



Back on track

The T-Bird bats weren't cold for long as they bounced back in the second game.

Lakeland recorded nine hits and Olson fanned seven in a 15-2 rout.

"Tate's a kid that just pounds the zone. He just throws strikes," Wilhelm said. "He's a just a kid that just throws strikes, gets people out and makes the defense play for him. Our bats warmed up, we put the ball in play, put the pressure on them and when you do that, good things are going to happen."

Slavinsky, Crisco and Michael Campbell all had two RBIs apiece.

Lakeland enters the WIAA Division 2 Playoffs having won seven of its last eight games, earning the No. 4 seed and the right to host its first game against Tomahawk.

It gives the T-Birds a chance to right some wrongs after the Hatchets swept them earlier the season, sparking their resurgence.

"It's not revenge, really, it's more redemption," Wilhelm said. "It's a chance to make amends for not playing too well. We left two games out there when we played them before and we're really happy with our seed. It's really nice to get a home game in the playoffs, and honestly, with how well we're playing when we take care of business versus Tomahawk, we've got a good shot to go to Mosinee and take care of business there too."

Lakeland (10-12, 5-7 GNC) hosts Tomahawk on Thursday at 5 p.m. The winner plays top-seeded Mosinee on Tuesday, May 29 for the regional championship.

Nick Sabato may be reached at nick@lakelandtimes.com or via Twitter@NickSabatoLT.