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BASEBALL ROUNDUP: Heavy-hitting Eskomos exposed by Proctor

After scoring 25 runs in two victories in as many games to begin this spring's baseball season, Esko exploded out of the gates to show their powerful offense can swing with anybody.

Out!
Esko senior Austin Carlson tags out Proctor's Jake Malec on a stolen base attempt during Friday's baseball game. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com

After scoring 25 runs in two victories in as many games to begin this spring’s baseball season, Esko exploded out of the gates to show their powerful offense can swing with anybody.

Though their body of work is not shabby, the Eskomos quickly realized if they want to compete with the big dogs in Section 7AA, they will need to pack more than just their bats.

That was evident when Proctor batted Esko 14-4 in a seven-inning game on a sunny afternoon last Friday at Esko, a game where the hosts ran with the Rails early, yet couldn’t keep pace with a lack of execution both in the field and on the hill.

“Didn’t throw strikes, didn’t make plays, there you go,” said Esko Coach Ben Haugen of the 10-run defeat. “We don’t have a blow-it-by-you guy, but I do feel we have as much talent as anybody; the only difference with us and these others teams is what happened Friday. We kind of had a letdown.”

Haugen said his team - returning eight starters in seniors Aaron Olson, Austin Carlson, Matt Bolgrean, Darin Davidson, Tyler Chicos and juniors Nick Emanuel, Cole Litsey and Derek Peterson - has plenty of the experience needed to compete, but knows that’s common in their section.

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Defending champion Aitkin’s Jake Lynn, committed to St. Cloud State, Hermantown’s Kole Zuidmulder, headed to Minnesota-Duluth, and Cloquet’s Brandon Conklin, still undecided on his college future, are all heavy-tossing pitchers in 7AA. The hardest thrower of them all is International Falls’ Ben Humbert, who signed with the Big Ten’s Minnesota Gophers, and whose fastball has touched 89 mph on the radar.

Esko (2-1), with wins over Carlton and Duluth Marshall already, won’t have anyone like that, Haugen said, but will use a pitch-by-committee formula to contend. Peterson, a right-hander who preserved their 4-2 win over the Hilltoppers last Thursday, was the losing pitcher against the visiting Rails.

Still, if they continue tearing the cover off the ball like they have, the Eskomos have hope. Emanuel, a left-handed hitting catcher, hit his second home run already this season when he cleared the right-center fence last Friday. Olson followed suit later in the game with a two-run shot of his own.

“We can put up the runs,” Emanuel said. “We’ve all been playing together since we were in Little League. I like our chances, but we have to figure out something defensively.”

“We just have to play fundamental baseball,” added Litsey, also a right-hander. “It’ll be just one play at a time.”

Their coach, one not to brag, agreed, remaining confident.

“I really like our team,” Haugen said. “We’ve got some guys who can hit. We just have to get better at the other two facets of the game. If we figure that out, we’ll be dangerous.”

Dangerous is a word that can also describe South Ridge, as the unbeaten Panthers (7-0) have produced seven victories in as many tries, outscoring their opponents 65-26 thus far. The team’s game with Cook County was cancelled due to weather Tuesday, perhaps the only way to slow them down.

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“Things are working,” said South Ridge Co-Coach Tony DeLeon, also helped by former St. Scholastica player Tyler Olin. “We just go in trying to get better each day. In seven games, we’ve had seven different lineups - which is good.”

Talking about good teams, look no further than Moose Lake-Willow River, as the unblemished Rebels (2-0) have yet to take a loss, but even better, have yet to give up a run.

A 3-0 win over Silver Bay pitched by Teddy Ryan and a 16-0 romp past Carlton heaved by Charlie Adamczak has ML-WR feeling upbeat, but when Coach Matt Niedzielski was asked if they could keep everyone scoreless, he chuckled.

“We’ll try, but that streak will be short-lived,” said Niedzielski, whose team travels to Cloquet on Friday. “You’ll know where you stand after you play Cloquet. They are the measuring stick of 7AA. We’ll see where we’re at.”

The host Lumberjacks (4-0) slipped by Superior 1-0 on a snow-flurried Monday, as Mason Brenner hit in the only run and was the winning pitcher on a frigid day at Ed Mettner.

“Cold,” Coach Rick Norrgard said, “and well-pitched.”

Related Topics: BARNUMBASEBALL
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