|6/4/2021 1:57:00 PM|
Vikings in a funk at wrong time, upset in sections
The North Branch baseball team has had a potent offense all year, backed up by solid, and at times spectacular, pitching staff.
But those were missing a bit in the Vikings’ regular season closing double header against St. Francis, in which they were swept by the Saints.
The first game saw North Branch’s offense go dormant against the stifling St. Francis hurler. They only managed two hits — one by Isaiah Scarborough and one by Reed Jacobsen — and two walks. Their patience and contact have been a calling card all year.
St. Francis scored one run in the top of the first and then hung up three in the third before adding their final tally in the fifth inning.
Devon Schulte got the start for North Branch, going two and two thirds inning, allowing six hits, four runs, three of which were earned, and two strikeouts. Scarborough finished the game, going two an a third inning, allowing two hits and one run.
The game was only five innings because of this year’s double header rules and limiting the amount of innings.
In the second game of the doubleheader, St. Francis jumped all over starter Bryce Skiba, scoring five runs off six hits in the first two innings, and built a comfortable lead. After being shutout for seven straight innings, the Vikings finall had a big inning, scoring three in the top of the third inning, with frosh Andrew Orf hitting two in with a triple. Skiba did his best to help the offense claw back with the third RBI.
The Vikings did add another unearned run in the fourth inning, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the big early lead the Saints had built. Orf pitched two innings of clean ball to give the Vikings a chance, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out one.
Duluth Denfeld 14, North Branch 2
Despite the sweep, North Branch still finished high enough to earn the second seed in the Section 7AAA bracket.
They are ensured at least two home games with the seeding. They took on the seventh-seeded Duluth Denfeld Hunters on Tuesday, June 1 in their opening round game and continued their late season funk, losing 14-2.
Despite the large seed differential, the teams weren’t far apart in talent. In fact, when they two teams played earlier this year, North Branch barely got by in a pitchers duel, winning 1-0, so it’s not neccesarily a surprise that Denfeld won, it was the manner in which they won that is concerning for the Vikings.
They were in a big hole right away, as Denfeld piled on five runs in the first inning and just kept adding on throughout the game.
The Vikings now will need to battle back throughout the whole loser’s brackets to have a shot at the state tournament.
They’ll start by taking on sixth-seeded Cloquet, who lost to Grand Rapids in the opening round. If the Vikings lose at any point from here on out, their promising season will be cut short. If they manage to beat Cloquet on Thursday, June 3, they’ll have to win five more games after that, including one on Saturday, June 5, two on Tuesday, June 8 and two on Wednesday, June 9. It’s a tall task, but the unfortunate road a first round loser must take in baseball sections.