Eskomos ease past RebelsAndy Hendricks said in the game of baseball, there are days at the plate where the pitch looks the size of a beach ball. More often than not, Esko’s heavy-hitting leftfielder takes advantage.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Andy Hendricks said in the game of baseball, there are days at the plate where the pitch looks the size of a beach ball. More often than not, Esko’s heavy-hitting leftfielder takes advantage.
“When you’re hot, it feels like you can’t do anything wrong,” said the senior, who leads the team with over 20 hits and over 20 runs batted in this season for the Eskomos. “And right now, we’ve all been really been hot lately.”
Hendricks was sturdy again this week as he recorded a handful of Esko’s roughly dozen hits in a 15-3 thrashing over Polar League rival Moose Lake-Willow River in Moose Lake Tuesday. The Eskomos have now won six of their last 10 affairs and have lost just twice in May.
“We’re getting solidified and playing some good baseball right now,” said sixth-year Esko Coach Ben Haugen. “Tonight we had two or three triples, four or five doubles and some little ones in there, too. We’ve been improving and, tonight, we hit the ball around pretty well.”
Haugen said Hendricks and junior catcher Ryan Holte are his crew’s top sluggers this season. They both lead the team with more than 20 hits. Along with Hendricks’ best 20 RBIs, Holte has 10 or so doubles. Haugen also said junior leadoff hitter Jared Mattson is hitting near .500, while he gets on base and steals bases as well as anyone in the league.
“We have improved a lot, not only from last year, but from this year, too,” Haugen said. “We had a couple of early losses that we would like to have back, but the last 10 games, we have been playing some good ball.”
After a lengthy opening inning Tuesday, Esko (8-6) darted to a healthy lead on the Rebels and never trailed. Mattson picked up the win. Haugen said he’s only allowed five hits in his last two starts.
“I think he had a perfect game going into the fifth, and our game before, he had a no-hitter going into the seventh,” Hendricks said of his teammate. “We’ve been playing well, but Mattson has been pitching great for us.”
“He’s pitched well in every outing for us this year,” Haugen added. “He throws a lot of strikes, mixes his stuff up and keeps guys guessing. And he just doesn’t walk anybody. He’s been very solid.”
With Mattson dealing, both Hendricks and Holte had multiple hits Tuesday. Haugen said four-sport senior Max Reinertsen and sophomore hurler Corey McDonnell are also big contributors this season on a well-balanced team that is moving up the charts.
“Yeah, we’re beating some teams in our league,” Haugen said, “but for us, we have to get to the next. And we still have a ways to go.”
Although in his final year, Hendricks thinks the program is on the right path.
“There are a lot of young guys with tons of potential,” he said. “I think there is a bright future here, but I think we can still make a push in the playoffs this season, too. We just have to play solid, fundamental baseball.”
That’s exactly what fifth-year ML-WR Coach Lyle Halverson hasn’t seen out of his Rebels (6-7) lately. He said his team made six errors Tuesday on top of the five they committed in a 12-4 loss to Virginia on the road a day earlier.
“Eleven errors in two games don’t help,” Halverson said. “We just haven’t been as focused. We’ve had plays in front of us that we just haven’t been making.”
While Halverson said his team came out flat, he credited Esko’s ability to hit. He noted that’s another area his young Rebels haven’t mastered yet.
“We led the state is scoring three of the past four years in double-A,” Halverson said. “This year, though, we’re younger and have had a tough time hitting the ball. That comes with experience. That’s just a part of the game.”
Halverson said top contributors for ML-WR include Jerry Young, Brad Fossum, Tony Adamczak and Tuesday’s losing pitcher Spencer Clough. Admitting their struggles lately, Halverson kept things in a positive light.
“I knew this was going to be kind of a rebuilding year for us, so to say we’re 6-7 right now is kind of where I thought we would be,” Halverson said. “We’re young, but they are some good athletes and some good kids.
“And if we hit, pitch and play defense, we’ll be in the game,” he continued, positively. “We’ll have a good practice tomorrow and Thursday. I know we will.”