Youthful Mountaineers see improvement as Pirates sweep doubleheader

Rainier explored its depth in two lopsided losses


Wins have been hard to come by for the Rainier High School baseball team, but first-year head coach Justin Gurnsey believes the Mountaineers made a turning point in their double-header against Adna on Friday, March 29.

The Pirates blew out the Mountaineers, 13-1, in a five-inning rout to open the series before shutting them out, 8-0, to end it. Despite the final score, Gurnsey said Rainier made strides as a team in the second game.

“There are no moral victories in baseball, but we took the lessons we learned from the Toledo games and really applied it, so I’m really proud of the way that they responded and played today,” he said, referencing Rainier’s two losses to Toledo by a combined score of 25-0 on Saturday, March 23. “I really feel that this was kind of a turning point where the team banded together, backed each other up, made the plays we needed to make and put the ball in play.”

With senior Jared Sprouffske ditching his typical catcher’s gear for the pitcher’s glove in the first game, Gurnsey shifted his defensive lineup after his unit surrendered 15 combined errors in its last two outings.

The Pirates took advantage, hitting the ball toward the fielders in their new positions and forcing them to make plays. Early in the first game, Rainier did not make the necessary plays. Adna took a 3-0 lead after the first two innings. The Mountaineers found life offensively in the third but could only muster up one run thanks to Johnny Boesch’s RBI double. Adna tacked on two more runs in the third before blowing it open in the fourth, with a seven-run fifth inning clinching the mercy rule.

With Hunter Howell on the mound to start the second game, the Pirates’ bats picked up where they left off, bringing a run home in the first inning. The Mountaineers looked to earn their first lead in two weeks in the bottom of the first, loading up the bases with no outs. They failed to bring a run home.

Adna put forth another dominant inning in which it capitalized on Rainier’s mistakes, driving in five runs in the third. While the offense could not pierce the lead, Gurnsey was proud of how his defense stepped up and with Howell’s performance on the mound.

“A lot of the credit goes to Hunter and the way he was throwing. They were just not able to square the ball up, and so there were a lot of ground-ball outs,” he said. “It was really solid defense, and that’s what we need.”

Boesch was also a standout on defense, moving over from his third-base spot to play second base in the first game and shortstop in the second. 

“The ball kept making it to him, and he kept making plays,” Gurnsey said of Boesch.

A couple of Rainier’s young players took the field, including freshman Allen Retynski-White, who recorded his first varsity hit, as well as Cameron Tongedahl at right fielder and Blake Fennel at catcher.

“It’s exciting because some kids don’t get as many opportunities as they want. We are young, but when they get in and we tell them to put the bat on the ball, that’s exactly what they did,” Gurnsey said of his youngsters. “They have the mindset. They want to get better, and they’re appreciative of the opportunities.”

Rainier’s (2-7, 2-5 Central 2B League) skid grows to seven games after winning its first two games of the year. The Mountaineers head to spring break and will return at 3 p.m., Monday, April 8 with a road game against Onalaska (0-9, 0-8 C2BL).

“I’m hoping that this break will give them the momentum both mentally and physically. I’m hoping they’re going to take it in and start to turn our season toward the positive,” Gurnsey said. “It’s not about the wins and the losses. It’s about competing every moment, and I really felt like they were in every moment of this.”