Bulldogs battle inconsistencyThe Bulldogs (1-3) beat Cook County last Thursday at their home field at Chub Lake Park, yet losses to Silver Bay, Hill City and Two Harbors have haunted them early on.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Kyle Gunderson admitted the Carlton baseball team has struggled making plays in the field. Teammate Zach Veno, meanwhile, said the squad’s bats haven’t been coming through, either.
Bulldogs Coach Ryan Schmidt said inconsistency is the issue.
“That’s the exact word I would use,” Schmidt said Tuesday night after Carlton lost 4-1 at Two Harbors. “Tonight we played well in the field, last week we were strong at the plate, and some nights we just come a little bit unglued.”
The Bulldogs (1-3) beat Cook County last Thursday at their home field at Chub Lake Park, yet losses to Silver Bay, Hill City and Two Harbors have haunted them early on. Veno said they simply aren’t playing solid baseball.
“That’s what it comes down to,” said the Carlton junior shortstop and pitcher. “Some nights we’re there, other nights we’re not. It’s been a slow start and we just have to start playing better as a team.”
According to Schmidt, Veno led the Polar League in hitting last spring.
Schmidt said his 5-foot-11 catalyst in the middle of their order has been hot again this year.
Veno is also one of seven players returning to the diamond from Carlton’s Senior League district title team last summer.
“We have a talented bunch of players here and this should be one of the more veteran teams we’ve had,” said Schmidt, the Bulldogs third-year coach. “It’ll come together; it’s just taken a little longer than we expected.”
Schmidt said that throwers such as senior Colton Godbout, junior Erik Adams and sophomore Brytton George will all head the small Polar League school’s pitching rotation, along with Veno and Gunderson.
Gunderson was the losing pitcher of record Tuesday night, yet picked up the late-game save in the 10-7 victory over Cook County last week. Adams, a right-hander, was the winning hurler against the Vikings.
Gunderson, also a member of the Bulldogs’ summer championship squad, said their lone win was nice, but their losses have been difficult.
“We have a lot of experience on this team,” said the 6-foot-2 pitcher and first baseman. “We just have to stay focused and start closing out games.”
Tuesday, a confident Schmidt said his Bulldogs battled alongside Two Harbors, until the Agates pulled away in the later innings.
“Tonight was the best game for us this year, for sure,” Schmidt said. “We played well in the field, but couldn’t get a hit when we needed one.”
Last Friday losing against Hill City was the opposite.
Schmidt said the Bulldogs scored five runs on the Hornets before they could even record an out in the opening inning. Yet, their advantage vanished quickly and resulted in a sour-tasting 14-11 defeat.
“I don’t know what happened,” Gunderson said. “We lost our composure and let things slip away. There is still a lot of baseball to play, though.”
“We haven’t found that rhythm and put everything together quite yet,” added Veno, “but I agree, there are a lot of games left.”
Aware his squad sports winners from the summer, Schmidt is convinced the Bulldogs will turn things around sooner than later.
“We’re just trying to get better each day,” he said. “Right now the guys are trying to do too much, rather than just play the game. We’re just going to stay concentrated on improving. We’ll get better.”
That includes both in the field and with the bats.
Like Carlton, Barnum, Esko, Moose Lake-Willow River and McGregor-Cromwell-Wright are all competing in the Polar League. However, a plethora of postponements means some squads have begun their season and others have not. First-year South Ridge sports its first baseball squad this spring, while fellow rookie team Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College posted the program’s first-ever win Tuesday, as the Thunder defeated Mesabi Range at Braun Park in Cloquet. Meanwhile, Wrenshall’s junior varsity program is set for their opener at Esko on April 26.