The Rhinelander Rebels were undefeated in three rounds of the 8-team Class AA state tournament.
A strange choice of bracket had them play one of the teams, Kimberly, from the losers bracket on Monday, rather than getting a bye and playing in the championship game on Tuesday. We've never seen a bracket like this and we had the disadvantage of playing the same number of games as the teams in the losers bracket. Talking about it in the stands before the game we figured it might actually be an advantage to lose Monday night's game, let the two "losers" play the early game Tuesday and play an automatic championship game against a tired team.
The boys must have liked that idea too because they went into the fourth inning down 14-0. (OK, they didn't really like the idea. It's just that Kimberly was hitting the cover off the ball when Troy and Chris Herman were pitching.) Up in the stands we were ready to take the loss, get out of there in a quick 5 innings and head home to rest for the final game.
The boys decided a little comeback was in order, Nate went in to pitch, and they rallied to bring the score up to 14-9 in the bottom of the 5th. Dan Kellen helped the groaning fans get back into the game when he hit a grand slam homerun and we started to think about winning. Unfortunately, the trend didn't continue and we lost in a full seven innings 19-10. At least we were guaranteed the championship game and spirits were high after staging such an impressive comeback.
Tuesday night went well right from the start. We scored 3 runs on 5 hits in the first inning and only gave up 1 run in the third.
There was a 30 minute lightning delay in the middle of the fifth inning causing us to wonder if we'd end up with a called complete game and leaving us with a deflated-feeling win.
The weather held and the team did, too. In the bottom of the 6th inning, with 2 outs, tournament MVP Sam Huebner got things started with a hit and the rest of the team followed suit. Dan Kellen nearly cleared the fence again but ran for a double as he added to his RBI total on this, his 18th birthday. Troy also hit the fence for a double (he was 2-4 on the night), driving in the teams 9th and final run.
The team headed back on the field to hold Kimberly one more inning. Even with our sizeable lead this was not a team to underestimate.
However, they couldn't overcome the pitching of Sam Huebner or the excellent fielding of the entire Rhinelander team and the Rebels were able to end it 1-2-3.
They watched the Runners Up receive their medals
They were awarded their individual Championship medals
The two seniors received the team trophy
And finally, they all posed for a State Champion Team photo
Very seldom does a team end their season with a win. Only one team can do it and the odds are that most folks will go home on a loss. In all my years of playing and watching my family play sports I think I've only seen this happen twice--on June 10, 1992 my sister Kari's high school fast pitch team won the state tournament (with her catching on her 18th birthday); and last night, August 3, 2010, (with Dan Kellen catching on his 18 birthday).
I'm not superstitious, but you can be sure I'm going to take notice of any team playing in the championship game on the catcher's 18th birthday!