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August 23, 2019

8/8/2019 4:02:00 PM
Nighthawks still navigating region playoffs after thrillers

North Branch 2, Ramsey 1 (10 innings)
In a performance reminiscent of another famous Minnesota pitcher, Jimmy Skroch threw 10 innings to lead the North Branch Nighthawks to a 2-1 win over the Ramsey Renegades in the opening round of the double-elimination Region 1C playoffs.  Noah Wolfe doubled in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning and Skroch shut down the Renegades in the bottom of the inning to seal the win.  The game was played Saturday, August 3 at Hinckley.  The win sent the Nighthawks on to face the Mora Mustangs in the second round.  The loss dropped Ramsey into the loser’s bracket, where they lost 19-8 to East Bethel and were eliminated from the playoffs.

In his masterful performance, Skroch allowed one unearned run on just four hits.  He walked two and struck out 10.  Ramey’s Max Loven also pitched well.   He allowed two runs – one was unearned and the other was the first earned run he allowed this season – on five hits.  He walked two, hit two and struck out 11.  Nick Solberg had two of the Nighthawks’ five hits.

The Nighthawks got on the scoreboard first.  In the top of the third inning, Clint Mattson hit a routine grounder to third base.  The Ramsey third baseman threw the ball past the first baseman, allowing Mattson to reach and get to second base.  Batting next, Wolfe struck out, but the catcher dropped the third strike.  Mattson advanced to third on the throw to first.  With two outs, Skroch hit a ground ball to short.  The shortstop overthrew first, allowing Skroch to reach and Mattson to score to put the Nighthawks up 1-0.

Ramsey tied it up in the bottom of the eighth.  With a man on first, Nighthawk catcher Jackson LeLeux tried to pick a runner off of first after a missed bunt attempt.  But the throw sailed into right field and the runner went all the way to third.  The next batter grounded out, driving in the runner from third and tying the game at 1-1.  In the top of the tenth, Mattson was hit by a pitch.  He stole second.   Wolfe then drilled a ball that hit the base of the fence on the fly in right center field to score Mattson and put the Nighthawks up 2-1.  Skroch finished off the Renegades in the bottom of the inning.
Mora 2, North Branch 1
Trailing 2-0 going into the top of the ninth against the Mora Mustangs, the Nighthawks scored a run and had a runner on second with one out.  But Mustang pitcher Derek Graves set down the next two batters and the Nighthawks lost 2-1.  The game was played a Hinckley on Sunday, August 4.  The loss sent the Vikings to an elimination game this Saturday, August 10 at 4 p.m. at Hinckley.  If the Nighthawks win that one, they will play immediately afterwards against the winner of the East Bethel/Hibbing game.  The winner of that game will go on to play Sunday at 11 a.m. for a berth in the state tournament.

Mora scored its first run in the bottom of the second, when Brian Kiel singled to drive in Adam Burgess.  In the bottom of the sixth, Graves doubled and scored on a single by Darin Erickson to double the Mora lead to 2-0.  Noah Wolfe walked to open the top of the ninth for the Nighthawks.  A grounder by Nick Pilz forced out Wolfe, but Pilz reached first.  Jimmy Skroch then hit a line shot off the shortstop’s glove for a single and Pilz went all the way to third.  Skroch tried to steal second.  The catcher’s throw was to the right of second base and Skroch collided with the shortstop.  The ball rolled into right center and Pilz scored.  Skroch was safe at second.  Both Skroch and the shortstop were slightly injured but stayed in the game.  Dawson Linkert pepped out for the second out and Jackson LeLeux grounded out to end the game.

Matt Robinson started for the Nighthawks, went 5 2/3 innings and took the loss.  He allowed two earned runs on five hits, hit one batter and struck out three.  Dylan Ramberg finished up, allowing no runs on two hits.  He hit one batter and struck out one.  Graves was his usual dominant self for Mora. He allowed one unearned run on four hits, walked two, hit one and struck out 11.  Graves also led the Mustangs with three of their seven hits, while Skroch had two of the Nighthawks’ four hits.

Nighthawks head coach Jim Skroch, Sr. said, “You couldn’t have asked for a better weekend of baseball, despite the loss in the second game.  To win 2-1 in 10 innings and then lose 2-1 with a chance to win it late was a lot of fun.  We are looking forward to this weekend and a chance to go to the state tournament.”

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