It seems whenever the LUHS baseball team needs a key hit, somebody in the batting order produces one. That was the case last week as the T-Bird Batmen went 4-1 between Tuesday and Saturday’s T-Bird Invitational.
The team dropped a close see-saw game to open the week on Tuesday to Antigo 6-4. They then went to an extra inning on Thursday to defeat Medford 6-5, and then handled Northland Pines 11-1 in five innings on Friday. On Saturday, the T-Birds took their own invitational, dropping Ashland 8-4 in their first game and then Merrill in the championship game, 5-4.
The LUHS baseball team dropped Tuesday’s game against Antigo after letting the Robins back into the game in the last two innings.
There were two lead changes in the game as both squads recorded eight hits on the day. What did in the T-Birds were the two errors they committed to Antigo’s none.
Lakeland took an early lead, 1-0 in the first inning. A double by Luke Kyska, plating Logan Murphy started the inning off.
Antigo scored one run in the second inning before Trevor Roszczewski could get out of a jam. The T-Birds then added another run on an RBI single by Nick Peterson, scoring Murphy.
Antigo took the lead in game at 3-2 in the top of the sixth inning on home runs by Rob Bestle and Josh Hale.
The T-Birds fought back to tie the game in the bottom of the inning on a home run by John Aquirre.
“That was a big home run,” said head coach Mike Wilhelm. “I really thought we were going to win the game after that.”
Randy Krebs hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning, and after Krebs – who also pitched – allowed one more run in the T-Bird half of the seventh, Antigo closer Blake Kirsch put away the final three outs to record the save.
Roszczewski was charged with the loss. He allowed six runs in seven innings, walked three and struck out two.
Murphy led Lakeland's offensive threat, as he reached base three times in the game. He scored two runs and had one RBI, singling in the third and seventh innings.
“They (Antigo) are the top of our conference. They’re the team everyone looks to beat,” Wilhelm said. “We probably played our best game of the year. We just made three mistakes and they hit three home runs off of them. Good teams are going to capitalize on your mistakes and they did.”
He liked the defensive effort on the field from the T-Birds.
“We turned some key double plays, made some big plays to get us out of innings. That’s what kept us in that game,” Wilhelm said.
After spotting the visiting Red Raiders to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first Thursday night, the T-Birds toughened up their defense to keep the Raiders from scoring again while they chipped away at that lead.
Wilhelm said his team could have given up and let the Raiders win.
“I think we tried to lose there for a couple innings,” he said. “We did not come out ready to play, we were flat to start. But a couple spark plugs in the fifth, sixth and seventh inning got us going.”
Brett Slavinsky went 4-4 at the plate, including singling in the eighth inning to set up the game-winning RBI single by Sam Killian. Slavinsky also singled in the third, fourth, sixth innings.
Slavinsky also helped the team on the rubber, going 7.2 innings.
“Brett Slavinsky pitched his butt off,” Wilhelm said. “I don’t think he was ready to pitch coming out of the bullpen. But he dug deep; he threw a ton of pitches tonight, but he seemed to get stronger as the game went along.
Slavinsky looked strong coming in for the seventh inning, but with his pitch count at around 140, he didn’t want to push him further in the extra inning.
“I like to get guys out at 100, 110,” Wilhelm said.
The T-Birds took their time getting the bats going, picking up two runs in the fourth and tying the game in the sixth with three more runs.
Wilhelm wouldn’t blame the weather, a nippy air temp in the low 40s with a brisk wind adding to the discomfort, for the sluggish start.
“This is what we’re dealt and we have to deal with it,” he said.
He also singled out Ryan McEnroe’s single and Luke Kyska getting on in the seventh that made the comeback possible.
“We did the little things right late in the game,” Wilhelm said. “We have to start doing them earlier in the game.”
Northland Pines Friday
A six-run explosion in the first inning carried was all the offensive output the T-Birds needed for their five-inning 11-1 win over Northland Pines Friday on the road.
The first inning onslaught was assisted by Logan Meier hit two batters to put runners on base. This was followed by two-run singles by McEnroe and Killian. They increased their lead with three runs in the fourth and two in the fifth.
Kyska reached base three times. He scored two runs and had one RBI. He singled in the second inning and tripled in the fifth inning.
“Pines is good enough where they can hang with you, but we were able to capitalize on their pitching. But we got some key hits at some key times. That seems to be our M.O. lately,” Wilhelm said.
It helped that McEnroe had a great night on the mound. He struck out 10, walked five and gave up just three hits.
“We were able to get hits early, Ryan came out and threw strike, we took advantage of their mistakes and put a lot of pressure on them,” Wilhelm said.
In their morning opener of their own tournament, Lakeland was paced by McEnroe, who had three hits, tripling in the second inning and singled in the fourth and fifth innings.
“Ashland is a team that is notorious for hitting the ball,” Wilhelm said. “They did today. They got some big hits early, but we’ve played great defense down the stretch and found hits when we needed them.
After letting Ashland score a single run in the top of the first, the T-Birds responded with two of their own in the bottom of the inning. They added another run in the bottom of the second. Ashland responded with two runs in the third and one more in the seventh. Lakeland responded with a run in the fourth, two in the fifth and one more in the sixth.
Roszczewski recorded the win for Lakeland, allowing four runs over 6 2/3 innings andstruck out six, walked five and gave up seven hits.
Hunter Bay was charged with the loss. He lasted just three innings, walked one, struck out none, and allowed four runs.
John Aguirre was the hero in the championship game of the T-Bird Invite, smacking a two-run dinger in the sixth inning.
With Lakeland trailing by one in the sixth inning, Aquirre came to the plate and homered, scoring James Bant.
The Bluejays struck first, taking advantage of a rough start by Nick Peterson to score three runs to open the game. The T-Birds responded with their own three-run first to tie the game.
Merrill scored another run in the fourth inning to take the 4-3 lead. That was it for scoring until Aguirre’s dinger in the sixth.
Peterson got the win for the T-Birds, striking out eight, walking one and giving up seven hits.
“I hate to sound like a broken record, but we get hits, get guys on and then drive them in,” Wilhelm said.
Jamie Taylor may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.