Flames overcome obstacles to enjoy fine season

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff


THE PLYMOUTH FLAMES had a successful 2017 baseball season. Team members include (front row, left to right) Greg Krahn, Eric Heidenreiter, Nick Bruns, Derek Hall, Jake Steinhardt, (back row) Zac Cain, Austin Mork, Nick Wilson, Matt Rhude, Greg Rhude and manager Rick Meyer. Not pictured are Mike Daly, Connor O’Dwanny, Zach Gambrell, Ryan Wachter and Ryan Schmitt. – Photo by Greg Ceilley THE PLYMOUTH FLAMES had a successful 2017 baseball season. Team members include (front row, left to right) Greg Krahn, Eric Heidenreiter, Nick Bruns, Derek Hall, Jake Steinhardt, (back row) Zac Cain, Austin Mork, Nick Wilson, Matt Rhude, Greg Rhude and manager Rick Meyer. Not pictured are Mike Daly, Connor O’Dwanny, Zach Gambrell, Ryan Wachter and Ryan Schmitt. – Photo by Greg Ceilley PLYMOUTH – Despite the loss of several key players from an outstanding team in 2016, the Plymouth Flames had a very good 2017 baseball season.

Flame manager Rick Meyer had to shuffle his lineup several times during the season because players were missing due to other commitments but the players available rallied around each other to play good, competitive baseball.

“There are many variables that go into how I evaluate this season. But given everyone we had to replace, I view this season as a success,” said Meyer.

“In March and April we were just trying to put a team together that we could count on. And there were numerous games that we pieced together a lineup with duct tape and binder twine. But we did play hard and were competitive.

“It took until midway through the season to really get comfortable with our core lineup but we still continued to struggle with numbers into the playoffs,” said the veteran manager.

“While we did have standout numbers from several players, I think when we once again came together and embraced that team concept like in prior years, that is when we really started playing well,” said the veteran manager.

The Flames finished 20-10 overall (including two forfeit wins) and won the Tri-County Nite League championship with a 16-10 victory over the Hartford Hawks. Plymouth qualified for the Rock River League playoffs and was eliminated in the first round with a 3-1 loss to the Kewaskum A’s.

The Flames placed third in the Rock River’s Northeast Division with a 10-6 mark. They won the division in 2016.

Hustisford, which won the Rock River’s Northwest Division this year, defeated Kewaskum (a Northeast Division member) in the Northern Division finals. The Northern Division playoffs included the Northwest and Northeast divisions.

Hustisford’s Northern Division title advanced the team to the Rock River Grand Championship Series. The Astros defeated Clyman in the finals.

Meyer said it was disappointing not to advance in the Rock River playoffs but pointed out that the playoffs had a lot of good teams.

“We had beaten Kewaskum three times already during the season, and just lost a close game, 3-1. It was not a bad game but a bit disappointing because we just couldn’t put much together offensively,” recalled Meyer.

Meyer pointed out the season’s highlights.

“We did have a couple of highlights: winning the WAB [Wisconsin Amateur Baseball] Classic small-division tournament in July and then winning the Tri-County Nite League Championship on the road at Hartford in a wild 16- 10 game,” he said.

“Both accomplishments showed what this team was capable of. The experiences in both of the events revealed a true playoff atmosphere.

“I feel that both wins were some of the more memorable in recent years for the Flames. This all occurred during a late-season run where we won 11 out of 12 games before falling to Kewaskum in the playoffs,” said Meyer.

He noted the keys to the Flames’ strong season.

“I think we had a really strong core of guys at the heart of our team that are some of the best players in this part of the state. You can’t win without talent,” said the manager.

“However, we still played as a team. We got contributions from all phases of the game – pitching, defense and hitting.”

The Flames had an outstanding .316 team batting average and a solid 3.69 team ERA for the overall season.

Meyer commented on several key players.

“We got some really good performances from several players, particularly Greg Rhude and Zac Cain offensively, but also midseason pickup Mike Daly, and regulars Matt Rhude and Derek Hall. In the end we weren’t super deep in the pitching department but we relied heavily on Derek Hall and Matt Rhude,” he said.

Shortstop Greg Rhude had an impressive season at the plate. He led the Flames in five statistical categories – batting with a .484 average; runs, 36; hits. 45; home runs, three; triples, five and doubles with 11.

Cain had a team-high 41 RBIs. Matt Rhude led in stolen bases with 10.

Hall paced the pitching staff in victories with eight and strikeouts with 59 in 78 innings. Nick Wilson led in ERA with an outstanding 2.36.

“It was just another fun season. We accomplished some good things and hopefully we can continue to find good ballplayers who will commit to our aggressive schedule,” said Meyer.

“Greg Krahn [infielder and designated hitter this past season] announced his retirement, so we’d like to tip our cap to Greg for his years of service with the team.”

Looking ahead to next season, Meyer said the team will probably have to re-tool because he expects to lose several key players.


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