April 14, 2011 at 9:13 a.m.
In baseball, even the tiniest of errors can compound into massive troubles.
For North Branch, in their season-opening game against North Suburban Conference foe Benilde-St. Margaret's, too many errors and too many mental lapses led to a 13-10 loss.
Although the Vikings only had one practice outside prior to the game, they started out impressively. Christian Ehrnriter started on the bump for North Branch. He labored through the first three innings -- escaping a bases loaded, one out jam in the second -- but left with a 1-1 tie game.
The Vikings' early run came when leadoff hitter Brett Klun drew a walk to get to first base. After a wild pitch by the Red Knights' starter advanced Klun to second, he moved to third on a fielders choice.
With one out and Klun on third, clean up hitter Andy Freel hit a grounder to the third baseman, which he bobbled. Klun bolted for home with the bobble, and he just edged out a throw home to give the Vikes the early lead.
"Brett got on base and moved runners around tonight," Head Coach Steve Christensen said. "His harder hit balls seemed to be outs, and some softer hits allowed him to show off his speed."
After giving up one run in the third, Ehrnriter didn't come out for the fourth, as he was on a pitch count, according to Christensen. "Christian pitched very well, but we had all of our pitchers on a count this early in the season. We don't want to burn anyone out this early."
Once the floppy-haired senior exited, however, things quickly went south. Travis Moreno came in to relieve Ehrnriter, and he promptly gave up seven runs in the top of the fourth inning to give BSM an 8-1 advantage.
North Branch trimmed it to 8-4 in the bottom half of the fourth, but the BSM hit parade continued into the top half of the inning, as they added four more runs to double up on North Branch 12-4. North Branch clipped two more runs off the lead in the bottom of the fifth. The Red Knights added one more run in the top of the sixth before a seventh inning mini-rally by the Vikings. They tallied four runs in the last inning of play, but couldn't keep the hitting going as they fell 13-10.
Although pleased with his team's offense on the day, there was still plenty of things that irked Christensen.
"If we keep putting hits on the board, and score 10 runs, I'd like to think we'll win a few ball games. I was very pleased with the amount of hits we had, even the fact we didn't strike out. Putting the ball in play puts more stress on the defense to make plays," he said. "Our pitching staff gave up 13 runs, with only seven earned runs. The defense was a little shaky, allowing seven baserunners to reach via error, and the pitchers allowed 11 walks.
Senior captains Andy Freel and Tanner Danks combined to go three-for-nine with two RBIs. "That's the kind of performance we need from our leaders," the skipper said.
With a busy week this week -- the Vikes hosted Chisago Lakes on Tuesday, they host Spring Lake Park today at 4:30 p.m. and then both Duluth Denfeld and Duluth East travel down for a double dipper on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. -- the Vikes need clean up their pitching and defense to get in the win column.
Despite a couple ugly pitching lines in the BSM box score, Christensen had praise for the staff. "Those are things that will improve over time," he said. :Each pitcher came out of the game with something to improve, and something to be proud of. Confidence is key as we move forward."