May 12, 2011 at 10:01 a.m.
Things started off ugly for North Branch in their North Suburban Conference game against St. Louis Park and just slowly went downhill as the game wore on.
Errors continued to plague the Vikings, as they gave up five runs, only three earned, in the top of the first inning against the Orioles early last week.
Starting pitcher Christian Ehrnriter couldn't fully recover from defensive lapses, and the Vikes were deep in the hole before they ever came to bat.
They manufactured a run in the bottom of the first inning after Tyler Anderson drew a walk and was moved around the bases by SLP errors and North Branch small ball.
The bats for both teams were silent until the fourth inning. In the bottom half of the frame, the Vikings started threatening by stringing hits together.
With a Brett Klun run in already, the Vikings had runners at first and third with only one out. A sharp grounder to the shortstop produced what looked to be an easy inning ending double play.
It ended up being a double play, but not so easy. Tim Katka, the runner on third, lackadaisically came home as the Orioles were trying to flip the 6-4-3 double play.When Andy Freel, the batter, hustled to first and beat the double play throw, it looked like an easy run. But, the first baseman alertly threw the ball home as Katka was still not at the plate. Although the throw came just a hint too late and Katka scored, Freel attempted to go to second base after the throw home, and the catcher found his mark, picking Freel off as he was stuck in between the two bases.
The sloppy play killed any offensive momentum North Branch had and really sparked the Orioles, who came out in the top half of the fifth inning on fire. Hits, walks and errors were abound as St. Louis Park rang up six runs in the fifth inning to stretch the lead to 11-3.
They added three more runs in the top of the sixth as the Viking bats went down quietly over the last two innings.
Katka and Freel were the only Vikings' that collected hits, but Anderson, Ehrnriter, Klun, Thomas Kinsella, Kevin Johnson and Katka also added walks to keep the game in reach for a while.
Ehrnriter took the loss, going four innings and giving up three earned runs on seven hits and four walks. He rang up four strikeout victims on the day.
Travis Moreno really struggled on the mound in relief of Ehrnriter. He gave up six runs on three hits and six walks in one and two third innings.
St. Francis 14, North Branch 10
In an ugly, error-filled affair, the Vikings lost another high scoring game to a conference opponent.
Between the second and sixth innings, both teams steadily built up a cache of runs, with neither fully able to pull away from each other. St. Francis started the scoring in the second with one run, North Branch answered with three in the third, and St. Francis tacked on one more in the bottom of the third.
In the top of the fourth, North Branch took a 6-2 lead when they scored three more runs. St. Francis quickly tied the game in the bottom of the fourth with four runs of their own.
That is where North Branch started to slow down, and St. Francis was just picking up steam. The Vikes added one run in the top of the fifth, but St. Francis answered with five runs of their own to take an 11-5 lead, and then after the North Branch bats went down without a run in the sixth, the Saints added three more runs to double up North Branch 14-7.
The Vikings threatened a bit at the end, adding three more runs in the top of the seventh, but they went down for the count before they could bring the game even.
The wild game was highlighted -- or lowlighted -- by a combined 13 errors between the two teams, including eight by St. Francis.
The Vikings got three hits and three RBIs from Tanner Danks, two hits, three runs and an RBI from Cole Mattson and a hit and an RBI apiece from Tyler Knobbe, Tyler Zondlo, Klun, and an RBI from Kinsella.
Kinsella started the game, and didn't fare so well. The junior went four and two third innings, giving up 11 runs -- nine of them earned -- on 10 hits, four walks and three hit batsmen.
North Branch 7, Columbia Heights 4
The Vikings finally played a clean game, and they produced a victory out of it against the Columbia Heights Hylanders.
North Branch struck first in the game, putting up two runs in the top of the second inning.
The Hylanders, who were 3-6 on the season coming into the game, took a lead in the third and fourth innings when they scored three runs combined.
North Branch's bats came back alive in the top of the fifth inning as they scored three more runs to go up 5-3.
Columbia Heights answered with a run in botoom of the fifth, but they couldn't add any more runs to their total, and North Branch added two insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning as they snapped their five game losing streak with the victory.
Ehrnriter and Klun were the stars offensively for North Branch. Deuces were wild for Ehrnriter, the senior first baseman/pitcher, who went two-for-two with a triple, a homerun, two runs, and two RBIs. Klun also went two-for-two with two walks, two runs and three stolen bases.
Danks, Mattson and Zondlo each added a hit and a run for North Branch.
Ehrnriter pulled double duty on the game, pitching the last three innings and earning the nine out save for North Branch while only allowed one hit in those three innings. He struck out six of the 10 batters he faced.
Kevin Johnson started for North Branch, and he got the win, going four innings and giving up four runs on seven hits and five walks.
The win boosted North Branch's record to 4-6 after they started out the season 3-1.