Area VFW, American Legion baseball squads hit the diamondBy the looks of Esko’s baseball diamond Tuesday morning, it is likely American Legion Coach Kyle Hall will have a bucket in hand the next couple practices, rather than the traditional bat.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
By the looks of Esko’s baseball diamond Tuesday morning, it is likely American Legion Coach Kyle Hall will have a bucket in hand the next couple practices, rather than the traditional bat.
“I drove by this morning and I couldn’t see a thing; it was covered in water all over,” Hall said of the recent downpours, flooded streets and broken sump pumps the weather has created around the region. “We’ll be working on it for next couple of days. But that’s Minnesota for you.”
Although the state’s problematic weather has been wet for seemingly the past week, the Eskomos have been busier than most this summer.
Esko (2-4) has already played six games. Sporting two wins over rivals Moose Lake and Carlton, the Eskomos have one-run losses to Hermantown and a pair to Deer River. They most recently were smacked by Ely, as well.
“We’re 2-4, but could easily be 5-1,” said Hall. “In those one-run losses, we competed and were right there. We just didn’t get that key hit when we needed one, but that will come as the summer moves forward.”
Hall played four years of Legion ball for the Eskomos and was the VFW coach until upping to the Legion this summer. He said many of his teenagers are young, yet experienced with the game.
According to Hall, catcher Ryan Holte has been the top bat in their lineup this summer. Mix in leadoff shortstop and pitcher Jared Mattson, along with heavy-hurling Corey McDonnell and the first year coach likes his squad.
“Those are our big three, but I’ve coached a good chunk of these kids before in VFW,” Hall said. “We’re still a pretty young ball club, but we’re getting there. I think we can compete with anyone in our division.”
That division includes neighboring programs in Carlton, Moose Lake and Brookston amongst others from the surrounding area.
The Eskomos will play at the Ely Tournament this weekend – barring wet conditions.
First-year Esko VFW Coach Jake Olson has also dealt with the soaking weather lately, as his winless Eskomos (0-2) have played only one doubleheader loss at Hermantown and their other three occasions have been postponed due to bad weather.
Olson, who played five years of summer ball in Esko before becoming a coach, said 16 eighth- and ninth-graders sit on his summer roster for the Eskomos.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Olson said. “We have 16 players that all can play and compete. It’s definitely a good problem to have.”
Olson highlighted players such as ninth-graders in third baseman Aaron Olson, second baseman Austin Carlson and eighth-grade catcher Nick Emanuel. Coach Olson said his crew will develop over the summer and make improvements.
“That’s the whole point of doing this,” Coach Olson said, noting their next big event on their calendar will come when they participate in the Willmar Tournament June 29-July 1. “The goal is to develop these guys for varsity in the spring. We just want to get them some more swings, more innings in the field and log more time on the mound.”
Esko’s VFW clash with Cloquet at Ed Mettner Field was washed out Wednesday as this edition of the Pine Journal went to press. Both are a part of the same district and will likely makeup their doubleheader later on, if possible.
The Lumberjacks (2-2) have played four games so far, all a part of last weekend’s Grand Rapids Tournament. Cloquet – coached by Bruce Kahara and assisted by Connor Stowell and Darrell Neimi – beat Grand Rapids and Greenway and fell to Hibbing and Ely.
“In those two games we lost, we had the tying runs on second and third, too,” said Kahara, whose grandson, catcher Jeff Sarkela, is on the team. “The kids played really well and were in all four games. But we had one bad inning where we gave up 12 runs.”
Along with his grandson, Kahara said Cloquet returnees include Dylan McIvor, Travis Bartlett, Logan Towne, Drew Marciniak, Victor Foxx, Ben Merrill and Austin Gotchnik. All played considerably a season ago and will next participate in the Hermantown Tournament this weekend.
Cloquet’s American Legion club is experienced, too, as new coach Dennis Conklin Sr. sees players Adam Hanson, Eric Peterson, Kaleb Kadelbach, Derek Anderson and Jake Schwinn return to a team that has beaten West Duluth and fallen to Superior already. The Lumberjacks will host Virginia Thursday unless more rain falls. They’ll also be host to the Lakeview Classic Tournament at Ed Mettner field in Cloquet June 29-July 1.
“These boys all know how to play good, fundamental baseball,” added Kahara, also the Cloquet Youth Baseball Softball Association Little League director and junior league coach along with his VFW duties. “They’ve been very well coached in the past.”