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Esko is improving, with an eye toward playoffs

Esko Legion 's Reid Davidson pitches against West Duluth Tuesday afternoon. Tyler Northey/Pine Journal1 / 2
Brody Kaldahl from Esko Legion catches the ball thrown by Ryan Nelson in an attempt to tag out a West Duluth player Tuesday night. Tyler Northey/Pine Journal2 / 2

Summertime is a great time for baseball players to work on their overall game and learn the nuances that will make them better come high school baseball season in the spring. The Esko Legion team has been doing exactly that — and they've been on quite a roll after winning three straight games at a tournament in Ely and then notching two more wins last week against Hermantown and Mesabi East.

"We talked at the beginning of the summer about three things we wanted to get better at as a team," explained coach Jim Karnas. "The first thing was two-strike hitting. In the past we had way too many bad swings and strikeouts when we needed to put the ball in play. The second was becoming better at base running. We have three or four good base runners and I wanted to have all 12 of them become good base runners. The third thing was winning the game. We've been really close in the high school and Legion playoffs the past couple of years."

At the end of June the Esko Legion team nabbed three straight wins in Ely at the DQ Classic. Esko opened with a 23-5 rout of Pelican Rapids on Friday night and then followed up with a Saturday morning 13-5 smashing of Roseau and a Saturday afternoon 16-4 drubbing of the Minnetonka Lugnuts.

"We won three games and got rained out Sunday," said Karnas. "We were scheduled to play Ely Sunday afternoon, but will have to wait until this Wednesday for our league game."

Last week Esko downed Hermantown on Thursday behind the strong pitching of Peyton Koskela, who gave up only one earned run in the 8-5 victory. Koskela also smacked a two-run triple for Esko. Tyler Peterson added two doubles and two runs scored and James Legarde had a single in the top of the sixth inning for the eventual game-winning run. Last Friday Esko parlayed a strong effort on the mound from Brody Kaldahl into a 16-0 win over Mesabi East. Kaldahl gave up no runs and only a pair of hits, while Brendan Durand came on in relief and struck out all three batters he faced in the five-inning win. Dawson Hoffman scored two runs and had two hits and Carter Northey chipped in by scoring two runs as well.

Esko will wrap up the regular season with a game in Ely Wednesday night as this edition of the Pine Journal went to press, and Saturday afternoon at Wade Stadium. Following the regular season, Esko will open the Legion playoffs next week in Marble on the Iron Range.

"We are 10-2 so far and I am very happy with how the team has played so far," Karnas said. "We have to find a way to win that third game in the tournament next week. We certainly know we cannot look past the first two games of the district tournament, which will certainly have a lot of good teams again this year, but hopefully we can play our game and use our experience of being there to accomplish our goal of making the state tournament."