June 5, 2003 at 2:41 p.m.
North Branch 0
The North Branch Vikings knew exactly what to expect heading into the second round of the Section 7AAA softball tournament held on May 24. Up first was Cloquet, a team that dominated the Vikings in late April, holding North Branch to one run on two hits. After the first inning, it became painfully obvious that the Lumberjacks had the Vikings number once again.
Christina Sampson mustered a two-out single in the top of the first to give North Branch their first base runner of the day. It would turn out to be the Vikings first, and last hit of the game.
Cloquet hit a rhythm, retiring the side in order the next four innings, striking out the Vikings four times. Meanwhile, despite pitching one of her best games of the year, North Branch starter Shannon O’Hern was victimized by two Viking errors in the third, allowing two runs to score. The Lumberjacks pushed their lead to 3-0 in the fourth on two hits, giving them more than enough room to work with.
Still down 3-0 in the sixth, Abby Fairbanks became the second Viking to reach base safely after being hit by a pitch but she never advanced past first. The same can be said about O’Hern who walked in the seventh, the Vikings third and final base runner of the game in a 3-0 loss.
“We only had one hit and got three base runners on base,” commented Vikings head coach Larry Brodin. “If you get runners on base you have a shot, you just never know, but we could never get anything going.”
O’Hern picked up the loss despite going the distance, allowing three hits and striking out two. The setback dropped North Branch into the consolation bracket and a matchup with a familiar face; the Princeton Tigers, with the winner moving on and the loser going home.
Cloquet 3, North Branch 0
R H E
North Branch 000 000 0 0 1 2
Cloquet 002 100 X 3 3 0
6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 K
Section 7AAA Tournament
Round Three-Losers Bracket
North Branch 5
Backed against the wall, the North Branch Vikings fought back against Princeton, beating their Rum River rival to stay alive.
With a win over the Tigers earlier in the year under their belt, North Branch used the same game plan to dispose of Princeton a second time. It was so perfect that the score was even the same as it was back on April 28, 5-3 in favor of the Vikings.
Trailing 1-0, North Branch took control of the game in the third, the same inning the Vikings made their move the first time the two teams met. Lindsey Larson tied the game by scoring on a wild pitch followed by an RBI single by Shannon O’Hern, giving North Branch the 2-1 lead. That was just the beginning. After another wild pitch scored O’Hern, the Vikings were in control 3-1.
However, the momentum would take a drastic turn for the worse in the bottom of the third as Princeton fought back to tie on two runs on three hits. It took North Branch exactly three hitters to answer. With Nikki Scaramell at third, Princeton unloaded their third wild pitch of the game, allowing the Vikings to re-take the lead. This time it was for good.
Up to that point, the Tigers inability to hit the strike zone had put them in a hole. In the fifth, it cost them the game. After leading off the inning with a single, Katie Paulson trotted across to score thanks to another wild pitch by Princeton, moving the score to 5-3. Despite putting five base runners on in the last three innings, the Tigers were never able to respond as Brooke Beaver sealed a 5-3 win, pushing North Branch to the next round.
“I thought we played fairly well,” said Brodin. “We had two kids missing (Reimann and Rauen for personal reasons), and the rest of kids stepped up and played okay.”
Paulson led the Vikings attack at the plate going 2-4. She was the only player in the line-up with more than one hit. O’Hern picked up the only RBI of the game.
North Branch 5, Princeton 3
R H E
North Branch 003 110 0 5 8 2
Princeton 102 000 0 3 8 0
Scaramell 1-5, R
Peterson 1-4, R
Sampson 1-3, 2B
O’Hern 1-3, RBI, R
Paulson 2-4, R
Larson 0-1, R
7 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 5 K
Section 7AAA Tournament
Round Four-Losers Bracket
North Branch 2
Their game against Cambridge-Isanti, marked the Vikings third game of the day, and with two of their main guns missing from the line-up, it was only a matter of time before North Branch ran out of gas.
After a scoreless first, the Bluejackets jumped on the Vikings in the second, connecting for two runs on two hits. In the third, the attack continued with two more runs on two North Branch errors, giving Cambridge an early 4-0 lead.
Two’s were wild in the middle innings as the Bluejackets kept scoring and the deficit kept growing. After Cambridge jumped in front 6-0 after four, North Branch responded with two runs of their own in the fifth. With two runners aboard, a Cambridge error allowed Larson to score the Vikings first run of the game. Heather Peterson followed with a single scoring Scaramell, drawing North Branch within four at 6-2.
However, the Bluejackets came right back with two more runs in the fifth and sixth en route to a 10-2 win, eliminating the Vikings. Beaver suffered the loss on the mound going three innings, allowing four runs on three hits. O’Hern worked the final three innings surrendering six runs on five hits. Offensively, North Branch was only able to muster four hits.
“The team worked hard at the tournament and played as hard as they could all day, remarked Brodin. “They can be very proud of what they accomplished. I was pleased because they did well all year. We had a lot of seniors back but not a lot of experience. To finish second in conference and make it to the fourth round of sections is an accomplishment.”
North Branch finished the season 12-12 overall.
North Branch 2
R H E
North Branch 000 020 0 2 4 3
Cambridge 022 222 X 10 8 2
Scaramell 2-3, R
Larson 0-2, R
3 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 K
3 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 K