Rafters Rotation Comes Together, Finds Success

Rafters starting pitchers build on each other’s strengths to dominate opponents

In early May, Nathan Hemmerling finished his freshman year at Lakeland University and drove from Green Bay to Wisconsin Rapids to meet the family he would be staying with for the summer. Just weeks later, Hemmerling took the mound as the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters opening-day starter.

Now, at the beginning of August, Hemmerling is part of a starting rotation that has shut down opposing offenses like no other Northwoods League team this season. Rafters field manager Craig Noto has primarily used a six-man rotation with five regular starters.

Hemmerling, along with Gareth Stroh, Neil Abbatiello, Jack Sinclair, and Matt Osterberg, have anchored the starting rotation for Rapids. Those five, who have been pitching since June, have a combined ERA of 2.13 this summer and a 23-10 record.

Additionally, the starting rotation was well-represented at the 2019 Northwoods League All-Star Game with Abbatiello and Osterberg playing for the West Division all-stars in Waterloo, Iowa.

Hailing from a Division III school and being one of the younger players on the team, Hemmerling was a bit apprehensive joining a starting rotation of older pitchers who played at a higher college level.

“Coming to the Rafters, I definitely felt like I needed to prove myself to the team. Looking at the roster and seeing a lot of older guys and guys from Division I schools, I was a little nervous,” Hemmerling said. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to do.”

As it turns out, Hemmerling has no problem mowing down opposing batting orders as he has a 6-2 record and a 2.09 ERA through 10 starts. Hemmerling’s background has been a blessing in disguise, as each one of the starters brings a unique perspective to the pitching staff.

“We as starters I think try to do a good job of helping each other,” said Stroh, who is entering his senior year. “I think we all see that when each of us individually does well it’s good for the whole. Since we have a range of young starters and older ones we keep each other on our toes.”

From graduated senior Abbatiello to Hemmerling, who turned 19 at the end of July, and from power-five Nebraska to Division III Lakeland, the Rafters starting rotation plays off a unique variety of skillsets and experiences to dominate on the mound.

Want to attend a Rafters game this season? Single-game tickets are on sale now. For more information on all Rafters ticket offerings visit, call the Rafthouse at 715-424-5400, or come visit us over at historic Witter Field. The Rafters ticket office is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday at Witter Field, 521 Lincoln Street in Wisconsin Rapids.


The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, over 200 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist (CHC) and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET) and Curtis Granderson (TOR).  All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Rafters as your favorite team.