Brookston enters playoffs with confidenceIf you’re looking for a bottom-seeded American Legion baseball team without a lot of games under their belt to roll over and give up in the postseason, look elsewhere. It’s not Brookston. They’re the exact opposite. They like the challenge ahead.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
If you’re looking for a bottom-seeded American Legion baseball team without a lot of games under their belt to roll over and give up in the postseason, look elsewhere. It’s not Brookston.
They’re the exact opposite. They like the challenge ahead.
Although Brookston is the lowest-ranked club entering Wednesday’s Division II District 8 playoffs and has played a mere 13 games in two months, Coach Travis Paulson is an optimist.
“I think that we have a good chance at things up there,” Paulson said, noting the team was set to play in the tournament at Deer River and Cohasset Wednesday and would continue – barring elimination – on Friday and Saturday in Deer River. “We have to be ready when we get to the ball field. And I think we’ll be ready.”
No. 5 Brookston sports a 4-9 record this summer and opened first round play Wednesday against No. 4 Marble when this edition of the Pine Journal went to press. The winner and possibly the
runner-up of the double elimination tournament will advance to the upcoming state tournament in Ely.
However, just playing a game is nice for Brookston.
“We just haven’t gotten to play,” said Paulson. “Two teams dropped out of our league, that’s four games right there. There’s nothing we could have done.”
Paulson said former Legion foes in Esko and Aurora cut their programs because of lack of numbers and experience. He also said his squad couldn’t schedule any other games, because everyone was already booked up.
“If you don’t have enough kids, you can’t play. It happens,” said Paulson, who fields players from the Alborn/Brookston area, along with Cotton and Floodwood. “It is what it is, though. I think Esko will be back.”
Limited games have meant limited time on the ball field. That, according to pitcher and infielder Kolten Karppinen, has been tough going.
“Sure it’s a little bit of a downer,” Karppinen said. “You look forward to playing and then things get cancelled.”
In addition to teams folding their programs, crummy weather has also dampened Brookston’s schedule. Playoffs were supposed to start Tuesday, but because of heavy downpours on the Iron Range, things were pushed to Wednesday instead.
When they actually get to play, Brookston is quite talented, Karppinen said.
“Our record doesn’t show it, but I’m really confident in us,” said Karppinen, who returned to Brookston after playing four years of varsity for AlBrook and last spring on Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College’s club baseball team. “When we play our best, we’re solid.”
That was best displayed Saturday at home against Marble.
Following a dismal 11-0 shutout loss in the opener, Brookston responded with a 15-5 drubbing of their own, behind their strong bats and Karppinen’s gem on the hill.
“It was crazy,” Karppinen said. “After that first game, we knew something was up. I think the heat got to us. We were drenched. Then we started
Teammate and fellow pitcher Dan Wood, of Cotton, agreed.
“We hadn’t played for a week and were sloppy,” said Wood, the losing pitcher in game one. “But then it was like two completely different teams.”
Paulson said that transformation came while chatting in the dugout.
“That first game, we just didn’t play well, we just lost it. We didn’t field, we didn’t hit, we didn’t do anything, really,” he said. “But that second game we played really well. We hit the ball, Kolten located his pitches and we made plays behind him. We were sloppy, but then we turned it around.”
Paulson said the boys have lacked consistency because of their thin schedule, and most of the time, a shortage of players.
“We were a little rusty against Marble,” he said, “and Saturday was the first time we had our full team since our first game against
Deer River this summer.”
And he knows they’ll all have to play together in the postseason.
“There are some good teams up there,” Paulson said. “But if you hit, pitch and play defense, everything will take care of itself. I told our boys that. We’ll have a couple guys working, but they’ll make it up there. I like our chances and I’m happy with that.”
“It’ll be some good ball,” added Karppinen, “but I believe in us.”
Wood reckons heading to state isn’t out of their deck of cards just yet.
“I think we have the pitching to do it,” Wood said. “I guess we’ll take it one game at a time and try and win each inning. Hopefully we can play as many as we can. Going to State would sure be nice.”