Bulldogs battle Bears, fall shortAlthough Floodwood heads into its first-ever state baseball tournament Thursday, June 13, Carlton’s Kyle Gunderson is perhaps the best example of why the Bulldogs shouldn’t hang their own heads.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Although Floodwood heads into its first-ever state baseball tournament Thursday, June 13, Carlton’s Kyle Gunderson is perhaps the best example of why the Bulldogs shouldn’t hang their own heads.
Gunderson is one of six Carlton seniors who finished their high school career in last Thursday’s 3-0 loss to the Polar Bears in the Section 7A baseball championship in Hermantown, but he and the rest won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
“Those guys have done everything I have ever asked of them for all four years that I’ve been here,” said Coach Ryan Schmidt of Gunderson, a five-year player, and classmates Erik Adams, Brett Balow, Zach Veno, Jacob Eggert and foreign-exchange student Otto Gonzalez. “The cupboard isn’t empty, but we’ll miss those guys. They’ve put Carlton baseball back on the map.”
The Bulldogs, finishing 14-6, mapped its way to last week’s finals following four elimination-game wins in five days, including victories over North Woods, Nashwauk-Keewatin, Duluth Marshall and Chisholm. Carlton needed to beat top-seeded Floodwood twice to make its first state baseball tournament.
That never happened, as the Polar Bears turned in the game’s first run during the opening inning, when senior Trevor Bernsdorf singled off Adams to left field, scoring Justin Hall. Floodwood (17-2) added insurance runs in the third and sixth innings, taking full advantage of the Bulldogs’ three errors.
“We were right there. If we would have caught a couple breaks, maybe we could have gotten to that second game,” Schmidt said, “but make no mistake about Floodwood — give them credit. They made us pay. That’s a good baseball team.”
That’s Floodwood, population 528. With a school enrollment of 94 students in ninth through 12th grades, the Polar Bears have made recent runs in girls basketball, football and even reached the section finals three years ago in baseball. Last week was the school’s first-ever state tournament-clinching victory in any sport.
“This win means a lot to me, to the players and to the town,” Coach Adam Johnson, a 1995 Floodwood graduate, told the Duluth News Tribune. “We’ve never been a baseball town, but the last four years, we’ve kind of made it into one.”
“You see signs all around town supporting us,” added winning pitcher Riley Bernsdorf, a sophomore right-hander who tossed a two-hitter, struck out five, walked none and faced just 22 batters, one over the minimum for the seven-inning game last week.
Adams meanwhile, the game’s losing pitcher, started out shaky but gave up just four hits, added five strikeouts and allowed only one earned run. He and Balow had Carlton’s only hits of the game.
“We battled our way back [to the finals],” Adams said. “That was the goal. I think that’s the farthest that we’ve ever gotten.”
“Win or lose, we knocked a few teams out,” added Gunderson. “What were we? Top-16 in the state? I was happy.”