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Rebels race past Eskomos in first inning, again

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Dylan Lovegreen isn’t your most superstitious baseball player, but the Moose Lake senior third baseman did admit if his team wins, he doesn’t wash his uniform.

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Perhaps that’s been the secret behind Moose Lake-Willow River’s success against Esko this spring. For the second time this season, the Rebels scored seven runs in the first inning en route to Tuesday’s 9-7 victory over their Polar League rivals in Esko.

Just 10 days earlier in Hinckley, the Rebels routed the Eskomos 13-3 in a game that lasted only six innings via the mercy rule after ML-WR managed to score seven times to open the contest.

“I don’t know what it is,” admitted Rebels second-year coach Matt Niedzielski after Tuesday’s win. “If I had the magic potion of how to beat a quality team like Esko, we’d be set.”

Setting the tone early Tuesday, ML-WR (5-3) managed to hang on to its lead behind balanced hitting and pivotal pitching performances behind junior starter and the game’s winning pitcher, Charlie Adamczak, and reliever, Brad Fossum.

Fossum took the mound late in the sixth inning when Esko had the go-ahead runs on the loaded bases with only one out and the middle of their lineup looking to rally. Like only the 6-foot, 180-pound, right-handed Fossum could do, he struck out both batters with his uncommon slider-curveball before the captain later closed it in the seventh.

“It’s one of the toughest places to come in at in baseball and he slammed the door,” Niedzielski said of Fossum’s clutch hurling. “He’s the quarterback of the football team and point guard on the basketball team. I can’t imagine anyone else getting the ball in a tight game like that.”

“My arm felt good,” said Fossum, who had recently taken some time off to rest a right shoulder that passes footballs, shoots basketballs and throws baseballs daily. “It felt really good.”

Like Lovegreen, Fossum isn’t very superstitious, but has a need to keep his glove visible outside of his bag when his team is rallying. Wearing eye-black, especially for Lovegreen, is another thing players do religiously.

“Our team is pretty close,” Lovegreen said.

“They have a lot of chemistry together,” added Niedzielski, “and they’re fun to be around.”

While ML-WR is molded around a cohesive, yet youthful team — including nine juniors — Esko is also young. John Carr is the only senior on a team that is tough, but has been unlucky against the Rebels.

“Moose has had our number in the first inning this year,” said eighth-year Esko Coach Ben Haugen. “We clawed back and had our chances, but we just couldn’t get out of the hole we dug ourselves.”

Junior Austin Carlson was the losing pitcher, lasting just one-third of the opening inning

Earlier in the day, sophomore Cole Litsey led Esko (7-3) to a 6-2 victory over visiting Barnum — a team that mauled ML-WR 7-1 a week earlier.

Early success, however, was the Rebels secret on Tuesday.

Even if that means Lovegreen needs to keep the windows of his truck rolled down to air out his uniform.

AREA ROUNDUP

Winning wasn’t a problem in Cloquet’s 7-2 victory over rival Duluth East Tuesday at Ed Mettner Field, but the Lumberjacks lost the second half of their doubleheader with the Greyhounds 11-7.

For four-win Cloquet, the defeat snapped a four-game winning streak and was their only setback on their home field, as well as the team’s first loss in the month of May.

For a young Wrenshall team still looking for their first win, Tuesday was not that day, when the Wrens were whipped by Polar League visitor Silver Bay 19-6.

The Wrens are the only team conference neighbor Carlton has beaten — 9-4 two weeks ago — as the one-win Bulldogs are young, but getting better. Tuesday, they practiced outdoors at Chub Lake Park.

“I think this was outdoor practice number four,” said Carlton Coach Ryan Schmidt, actually happy that his team wasn’t playing that day. “The days without games are good for us because this good bunch of kids can spend time working on things they need to work on.”

Barnum worked past Carlton earlier in the spring, but didn’t have the same success against Esko Tuesday, suffering a 6-2 setback on the road.

South Ridge, which has also lost to Esko, was on the road Tuesday, too, defeating Cook County 13-12 in a slugfest at Grand Marais. The game itself lasted over three hours.

“It was a long game,” Panthers Co-Coach Tom Spaniol said, “but never we have apologies for a win.”

“It took forever,” added Co-Coach Tony DeLeon. “There must have been 300 pitches.”

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