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Esko baseball's 'yin and yang'

Corey McDonnell of Esko (left) watches as teammate Aaron Olson catches a pop fly in the top of the sixth inning against Cloquet Monday night. Esko went on to beat Cloquet 7 to 1. Dan Saletel For the Pine Journal1 / 2
Esko #8 Tyler Chicos crushes the ball for a base hit in the top of the 6th inning Monday night. Esko took a 7-1 win in the first game of a double header. Dan Saletel/Pine Journal2 / 2

Sitting in the Esko VFW baseball team's dugout, it's common to see coaches Brad Emanuel and Ben Haugen thinking on the same page or finishing each others' sentences.

"It's kind of scary," Emanuel said Wednesday morning.

Nothing was scary Monday when Esko eased past Cloquet 7-1 and 7-1 in a VFW baseball doubleheader sweep at Cloquet's Ed Mettner Field. Esko scored multiple runs early in each game, as they earned their 14th and 15th wins this summer.

Summertime is usually spent on a softball field for Emanuel, Esko High School's longtime softball head coach. But with son, Nick, playing baseball, Emanuel opted to spend more time with him and transfer to the larger diamond.

"I'm making an adjustment," said Emanuel, noting baseball games are much longer, taking 2½ to 3 hours each. "I can coach two softball games in that time. But I've had a blast with Ben."

Haugen, the school's baseball head coach, said while he is more conservative, Emanuel is far more aggressive.

"It's like a yin and yang," said Haugen, noting Emanuel manages most games, while he also spends time with his younger son in youth baseball. "It's been a lot of fun for us."

Haugen explained there will be times either coach may be late to the game, but whoever gets there first takes third base coaching duties.

"And makes the lineup card," Haugen said with a laugh.

Emanuel coached third on Monday against Cloquet, then he watched his team sweep Duluth East A and B Tuesday, as well.

Haugen said all 13 of their players were on the VFW team a summer ago. Emanuel added they can hit, have bettered their defense and have been pitching well since the Fourth of July.

Winning pitchers Monday were Derek Peterson and Aaron Olson, as Esko closes its season Thursday with a twin bill at Proctor and enters sub-district playoffs starting Sunday.

"Basically this is our varsity team for next year," Haugen said. "This is the best VFW group we've ever put out in my seven years here, but in the playoffs, you just never know."

"The kids are skilled," Emanuel added. "But the mission is to see what they can do and how we can make them better."

One of those kids is Nick Emanuel, the team's catcher.

"To have my dad around all of the time has really helped me develop, and Coach Haugen is like a second dad to me," Nick said. "I think we're all going to the ballpark more confident."

Cloquet looks to regain its confidence after Monday's losses, going 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Coach Nate Windschill, assisted by Cloquet baseball head coach Rick Norrgard, said his team has seven wins, and the players are learning a lot.

"The kids are so great," said Windschill, 34, in his first-ever coaching position. "I really can't tell you how much fun this is."