When the Minocqua Wood Ducks traveled to Whittlesey Sunday to open Dairyland League play, they knew they had a tough draw to start the season. And the Reds lived up to that expectation, handing the Ducks an 11-1 loss in seven innings.
“The Reds are the defending Dairyland League champs and were able to make a pretty deep run in the state playoffs last year. We knew we had the toughest game of the season coming right out of the gate,” said Woodies manager Doug Etten.
Things looked promising for the Ducks in the top of the first inning, when Dominic Caroselli got a leadoff walk and was then driven in on an RBI single by Matt Myer on the very next play.
“It was good to get out on top in the first and get some excitement going through the dugout. Their starter, Brandon Loertscher, struggled finding the zone in the first couple innings and we made him pay,” Etten said.
After giving up just one hit in the bottom of the first, the Woodies threatened again in the top of the second.
Cody Knapp and Nick Bolte led off the inning with singles and Etten walked to juice the bases. But it was there that the Ducks’ offense struggled, with the next three batters fanning.
“The second inning was crucial for us. We loaded the bases with no one out and had the top of the order coming to bat, but just couldn’t scratch a hit through,” Etten said. “That could have changed the whole game right there.”
What happened after that is the Reds shut down the Ducks in order the rest of the way out. They took the lead in the third with two runs, then added three in the fifth, five in the sixth, and a lone run in the seventh.
“We definitely need to get better at putting the ball in play. Striking out 17 times can’t happen if we want to win baseball games,” Etten said. “To our defense, Sunday was the first time a lot of our team touched a baseball in a year or more. With the late spring there wasn’t much we could do. We will get better.”
He said that now that the weather is finally more condusive to playing the sport, the team will work on knocking the rest of the rust off from the prolonged winter.
Overall, Etten said he was very pleased with the pitching and defense.
“I think we’re going to be solid in both areas which means we’ll have a chance in just about any ball game this year,” he said. “Mitch Steinke got the start and hit his spots, well. He did a good job of throwing his change-up which is key against a good hitting team like Whittlesey. He’ll be a good compliment to Mike Dumask who gets back with the team this weekend.”
As if this weekend wasn’t busy enough with all the Memorial Day festivities, the Wood Ducks open their home schedule this Sunday at the LUHS baseball field. The 1:30 p.m. game will fit right into weekend plans for people who prefer their baseball more traditionally – with wood bats and played to nine innings (with a mercy rule).
Etten said the team is looking forward to the holiday match-up.
“We’re excited to have the Spirit Twins coming this weekend for the Memorial Day match-up. They fit our style of play pretty well and if we can improve even just a little bit over last week’s poor performance at the plate, we’ll be alright,” he said. “Our team this year is young. We’ll have some guys fresh out of high school and some guys picking up the game again after a few years away. Either way, it’s so awesome to see guys staying close to the game of baseball and wanting to keep the excitement alive during the summer months.”
Jamie Taylor may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.