The Lakeland Babe Ruth Prep baseball team found itself facing the undefeated team from Merrill last Wednesday in the league tournament championship game, and despite losing 8-0, their coach said it was the team’s best showing of the season.
Lakeland advanced to the title game, which was postponed one night by rain at Tomahawk’s Kahle Memorial Field, by defeating Tomahawk 5-4 on Monday at the Minocqua Sports Complex. Merrill advanced by defeating Rhinelander on Monday.
It didn’t help that Merrill’s pitcher threw a one-hitter, with Tate Olson getting the lone hit as the very first Lakeland player to step to the plate in the top of the first inning.
“They’re a tough team, we had to struggle with them all year,” Lakeland coach Jack Dunbar said. “I think this is probably the closest we’ve ever gotten to them. I’m proud of our guys, they did all they could do.”
Although the Lakeland Bombers couldn’t get anything going with their bats, they still managed to get people on via walks and errors. Olson advanced to third in the first on sacrifice flies from Austin Wante and Brandon Slavinsky. Blair Dunbar did the same thing in the second after drawing a walk. In the top of the fourth, the Bombers loaded the bases when Bryce Gilbertson reached on an error and Blair Dunbar and Jonathan Jurries drew walks.
Without being able to drive the runners in, however, the Bombers just couldn’t overcome even the three
runs Merrill put up in the bottom of the first. They added another run in each of the third and fourth innings and three more they tallied in the fifth.
“We played pretty solid. We had a few errors that took us out of this game. It’s just our bats were dead today,” coach Dunbar said. “The game before this, our defense was good, our bats were alive and we played really well.”
Despite the slowly widening gap between Merrill and the Bombers, they never quit playing.
“We gave them a good run, we didn’t give up,” Dunbar said. “That’s one really nice thing. I mean the kid threw a one-hitter, hats off to him.”
Jamie Taylor may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.