May 21, 2004 at 11:04 a.m.
Confidence is a strange, yet essential beast. When you don’t have it, you struggle, when you do, you don’t. Some put more emphasis on confidence than others. For Troy Walker and the North Branch baseball team, confidence is where it starts, and ends.
For example, when the Vikings started the year, they didn’t have it, losing eight of their first nine games. Since then, they’ve had it, winning four of their last five, including two more wins last week, moving their season record to 5-9. Last season, North Branch only won two games all year.
“I think so, I think the guys have confidence right now,” said Walker, North Branch head baseball coach. “The guys finally closed out a game at the Brooklyn Center Tournament. They realized they can finish off a team and win and I think that’s carried over.”
Last Tuesday against St. Michael-Albertville, the Vikings definitely finished the Knights off. Actually, they never gave them a chance, scoring the first three runs of the game en route to a 8-1 road win.
The Vikes put up three runs in the third. After Matt Fletcher led off with a double and Marty Savage followed with a walk, Fletcher came in to score on a Knight error. That was followed by a two-run single off the bat of Matt Warren, putting North Branch in front 3-0.
After St. Michael pulled within two at 3-1 in the fifth, the Vikings answered right back with one more in the sixth. Once again, Fletcher played an important role, singling in the fourth run of the game.
Then in the seventh, North Branch closed the door with four more. Two came across home plate on a double by Fletcher. Warren and Patrick Ryan also produced RBI’s to close out the seven run win.
At the plate, Fletcher finished the game with three hits and three RBI’s. Warren added two hits and three RBI’s. Warren also picked up his first career varsity win on the mound, going six and a third innings.
“Matt pitched well, He threw six innings and started the seventh,” replied Walker. “It’s tough to win your first game on the road, it was a tough place to pitch.”
When asked about the Vikings fourth win of the season and their second consecutive win?
“It’s fun to see all of that hard work pay off,” commented Walker. “Things are really starting to come together.”
North Branch 8
R H E
North Branch 003 001 4 8 9 3
STMA 000 010 0 1 3
Savage 0-2, 2 R
Ryan 1-3, RBI, 2 R
Warren 2-4, 3 RBI, R
D. Stahley 0-4, R
Fletcher 3-4, 3 RBI, R
R. Stahley R
WP: Warren (1-0)
North Branch 9
Over the past two years, The Vikings have suffered their fair share of losing streaks, but after their win over Princeton last Friday, North Branch started to feel the other side of the pillow. They liked what they felt. Three straight wins and counting...
The Vikings were on the offensive immediately, scoring eight of their nine runs in the second and third innings.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the second, North Branch responded with three runs, capped off by RBI singles by Dan Gray and Patrick Ryan, grabbing a 3-1 lead.
The Tigers pulled within one in the third, only to have the Vikings explode in the bottom of the third, putting the game out of reach for good.
Leading 3-2, Joe Ranger knocked in Matt Warren with a triple, kicking off a five run inning. Dominic Stahley then followed with another RBI, that on a single. The Vikings picked up three more runs by stealing home once and scoring two more on Princeton errors. The entertaining third jumped North Branch in front 8-2. The Vikings added one more run in the sixth to close out a 9-6 win.
“We finished with 11 hits,” said Walker. “We’ve been putting the bat on the ball. Now, we need to be consistent with it. We need to continue to get 10-12 hits a game to keep this thing going.”
This thing is momentum. The win pushed the Vikings record to 5-9, giving them three more wins than all of last year with six games left. If a team is supposed to peak at the end of the season, Walker and company have planned it perfectly.
“It’s the perfect time, we couldn’t have asked for a better time to start playing well,” mentioned Walker. “Hopefully we can keep it going. It’s just confidence, that’s the thing for us right now. The kids discovered they can win a game and everything has ballooned from there.”
North Branch 9, Princeton 6
R H E
Princeton 011 012 1 6 7
North Branch 035 001 X 9 11
Savage 1-4, R
Ryan 3-3, RBI, 3 SB
Warren 1-2, R
Ranger 1-3, RBI, 2 R
Dom. Stahley 2-3, RBI, 3 R
Gray 1-3, RBI, R
Meier 1-2, R
WP: Anderson (3-4)
6.1 IP, 5 K
North Branch 3
Good pitching always beats good hitting. That’s exactly what happened last Monday in North Branch as Milaca snuck past the Vikings 5-3, snapping their three game winning streak.
After averaging more than eight runs over their last three games, Milaca’s number one pitcher held the Vikings to three runs on three hits. The Vikes also struck out 12 times.
While that was happening, poor defense by North Branch was adding to the problem. The Vikings committed two errors, allowing the Wolves to score more than enough runs to win. The loss erased a great effort by Jake Anderson who pitched seven complete innings, allowing only five hits.
“Jake pitched a really solid game as always, he was solid,” said Walker. “We made a couple of errors which allowed them to score their runs, and on offense, we only got three hits. That’s not going to get it done. He was the hardest thrower we’ve seen all year.”
The scoring started in the first. Down 1-0 in the bottom of the first, Patrick Ryan fought back, reaching base on a walk, stealing two bases, before scoring on an error. The two stolen bases runs Ryan’s season steal total to 17.
The Wolves fought back in the third with another run, but just like that, another Milaca error allowed Matt Warren to score from third, tying the game 2-2 after three.
However, Milaca blew the game open in the fourth with two more runs, then added another one in the sixth to move in front 5-2. Despite an RBI single by Warren in the bottom of the seventh, 5-3 was as close as the Vikings would get.
“It was a good experience for us. That’s one of the better pitchers we will see all year,” replied Walker. “All we can do is put it behind us and learn from it.”
On the bright side, the Vikings don’t have a lot of time to dwell on the loss. North Branch has two more games scheduled this week, including a road match-up with conference champ Chisago Lakes on Thursday.
North Branch 3
Milaca 101 201 0 5 5
North Branch 101 000 1 3 3
Anderson 0-4, R
Ryan 0-1, R, 2 SB
Warren 2-4, RBI, R
D. Stahley 1-3
LP: Anderson (3-5)
7 IP, 5 H