Play ball (finally)!
Jason Juno/Daily Globe
Hurley’s Kirkie Pecotte swings during Friday’s softball opener at Rhinelander.
RHINELANDER, Wis. — The Hurley Midgettes may have lost 2-1 to Rhinelander Friday, but they beat every other local team: They played a game outside.
Even if it took until April 26 and an 80-mile drive to the southeast where the snowpack is nearly gone.
Hurley plans on playing again today, three games in a tournament at Gilman, which is roughly between Tony and Thorp and is the site of the Midgettes’ 2010 sectional championship victory over Thorp.
“We didn’t really play all that bad for not coming on the field yet,” Hurley manager Jim Kivisto said.
“It’s 10 times better to be on a field to play,” said Hurley senior Sam Ofstad, who shined in her debut at shortstop.
The Midgettes and the Hodags played clean baseball in what was the first contest for both teams. Hurley committed one error, which cost it both runs. Rhinelander also had a single error but had better luck with it not costing a run.
The pitching was there, too, with each team walking just twice.
The hitting showed the most signs of this ugly spring in which Hurley got on a diamond for the first time Friday and Rhinelander beating them by a few days. Each team had five hits as Hurley went with lefty Brittany Czarnecki on the mound and Rhinelander started Mara Meyer, who plans to play at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee next year.
Ofstad moved to the shortstop position this year even though she didn’t really want to give up first base.
The move was a no-brainer, Kivisto said.
She showed incredible range there, moving backwards and extending for two tough catches in the fourth, nearly turning two double plays on her own and competing a dive to stop the ball and then getting the force at second — without ever getting up.
“Sammy just played fantastic at shortstop,” Kivisto said. “She had some plays that were unbelievable.”
The ball was hit to Ofstad’s area, which was pretty large, eight times. She had no errors and the out was recorded seven times with an error on another fielder on the other.
“I didn’t realize how much action there was at shortstop,” Ofstad said. “I wanted to stay at first. I’m kind of happy I moved actually.”
Rhinelander struck first with two unearned runs in the second inning. Meyer started with a one-out single. Hurley got two straight ground balls and looked to be out of the inning, but an error at first base on the throw from the shortstop kept the inning alive.
Meyer scored on that error as Kylie Hunter reached base. Lexi Haug’s single drove in Hunter and the Hodags led 2-0. She scored from second with no throw home from the outfield.
The Midgettes came on in the fifth inning.
Athena Butkiewitz hit a one-out double. Gabby Pecotte walked after a long at-bat. Kirkie Pecotte’s two-out infield single that wasn’t neatly collected at first base on the throw from second allowed Butkiewitz to score from third base.
Felicia Herlevi hit a couple of long foul balls but eventually became the third out to end the rally.
Ofstad helped keep it a one-run game by getting the first out of the sixth when nearly pulling a double play and then making that dive stop and force out while on the ground at second.
Gabby Pecotte singled and got to second base in the seventh inning, but Hurley wasn’t able to score.
Hurley finished with five hits, including two by Courtney Clement. She reached a third time on Rhinelander’s only error. Czarnecki took the complete-game loss. She struck out four.
“Brittany pitched a great game,” Kivisto said.
Meyer got the win and struck out eight.
From not playing on the field to facing a pitcher like that is not easy.
“It’s hard,” Ofstad said. “I had a horrible time hitting today and I know that. Hopefully (today) I can go in and change that. It’s hard because she’s a good pitcher. She knew where to put the ball. The speed was OK. But she could put the ball down, high, inside, outside.”
Kivisto said he didn’t expect hitting to be a problem for the very young Midgettes.
“That will come around. That’s the least of my worries,” he said.
Division I Rhinelander won a share of the Great Northern Conference last year and hopes to take a big game against Mosinee Tuesday to be on track to win it outright.
“It was a good game for Hurley,” Rhinelander coach Amanda Jorata said of the Division 3 Midgettes. “They did awesome for not being outside yet.”