|6/8/2017 3:26:00 PM|
Vikes can't duplicate magical run
After shocking the Section 7AAA field last year, you’d think teams would’ve taken the North Branch baseball team a little bit more seriously this year.
Despite a mediocre regular season record and a sixth seed, North Branch upset third-seeded Duluth Denfeld in the first round 3-2.
That win sent them to a match up with the second-seeded Cloquet Lumberjacks.
Dylan Ramberg pitched masterfully against Cloquet, holding them to one unearned run over five and one-third innings and striking out seven.
He was relieved by Nick Dufeck, who pitched a near spotless inning and two thirds in relief to pick up the save.
On offense, North Branch got all the runs they would need in the third inning. Dawson Linkert hit a double that drove in Clint Mattson and Brady Brodin. Linkert then was driven in by Ramberg, who supported his own cause with the RBI. He added another RBI in the fourth inning to give NB a 4-1 lead, and that’s all they would need to hold on.
That win kept them in the winner’s bracket against a familiar foe in Hibbing, who had knocked off top-seeded Chisago Lakes 10-2 earlier in the tournament.
The two teams were in this position last year, and North Branch won the first game, which is a gigantic advantage, en rout to their state tournament berth.
This time, though, Hibbing, the fifth seed, wouldn’t be denied a win.
North Branch opened the game with two runs in the top of the first inning, with Ryan Byrkit and Jared Kozar each getting RBIs, and were primed for a good start.
However, Dufeck started on the bump for North Branch, and he didn’t make it out of the first inning. He had a bout of wildness, walking three and allowing a hit while only record two outs.
Dillyn Negley relieved him, but it wasn’t much relief at all. After Hibbing hung up four in the first inning, they kept hammering, putting up another four run inning in the second frame, and then capping it off with a five run third inning to go up 13-2.
North Branch’s bats went silent in the face of the Hibbing onslaught, and the Jackets added one more run in the bottom of the fourth. When North Branch didn’t chip away at the lead in the fifth inning, the mercy rule took effect and sent North Branch to the losers bracket.
In the bottom half of the bracket, the Vikings squared off with Duluth Denfeld again, the team they beat to open the tourney. The Hunters had battled all the way back to face North Branch again, and this time reversed the score, winning 3-2. For a full recap, check out next week’s County Press.