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Young Rebels team making strides

Moose Lake-Willow River junior Ian Coil jumps up to catch a throw from third during Tuesday's game against Two Harbors. Adele Whitefoot/Forum News Service1 / 2
Moose Lake-Willow River sophomore Trent Juhl rounds third and heads home during Tuesday's 9-4 loss against Two Harbors. Adele Whitefoot/Forum News Service2 / 2



Though they fell for the fourth straight time on Tuesday night at Two Harbors, coach Matt Niedzielski is seeing progress from his young Moose Lake-Willow River baseball team.

The Rebels fell 9-5 to the Agates thanks to a four-run sixth inning from the home team. Still the Rebels, who field only two seniors, are showing signs of growth.

"It's been an interesting season," Niedzielski said. "We are playing better baseball lately, starting to make fewer mental mistakes and we're starting to hit our groove. But it's been a challenge."

Brendon Fogelberg started on the mound for the Rebels but gave way to Ian Coil in relief, who took the tough-luck loss. Sophomore Danny Whited had two hits for the Rebels including an RBI double, while Mark Fossum and Fogelberg also hit safely for the Rebels.

But it's the youth of the team that provides both hope and frustration for the coach.

"We are pretty young," Niedzielski said. "I think the issue is a lack of experience right now. These kids need to see more baseball so they can turn things around a little bit. We'll be better by the end of the season when we've grown into ourselves a little bit."

The team's seniors are shortstop Wyatt Lampel and center fielder Nick Wegge, who are the captains.

The Rebels' wins came in their second and third games of the season, in a 14-7 win over Pine City and a 10-9 triumph over McGregor-Cromwell-Wright.

"Of the two, the Pine City game was a better played game," Niedzielski said. "McGregor was kind of ugly. We played well Tuesday against Two Harbors though; we didn't make mental mistakes and they had a couple of well-timed big hits to beat us."

The game was played in deteriorating weather conditions, with Wednesday's ice and rain storm just beginning at the end of the game.

"It was pretty nice for most of it but when the later innings came it started to rain and the weather didn't favor us at the end," he said.

Playing a team like Two Harbors close bodes well for the rest of the season according to Niedzielski. The team's style of play may have to change a little bit while the young players find their varsity feet.

"It's the mental side of the game we have to work on, doing the right things on the field, hitting cutoff men, getting the ball to the right base, running bases," he said. "Because we are a little bit young and having growing pains, we are trying to put more pressure on the other team to make plays and be aggressive because we know we'll make a few mistakes ourselves in the short term.

"It's all about knowing where you're going with the ball and anticipating," he added. "But we have some very good athletes on this team and we have a core of promising players. I think they'll show they have the tools."