June 20, 2019 at 2:10 p.m.
So, you’ve heard of the Little Brown Jug? Paul Bunyan’s Axe? Well, starting this year, the North Branch Nighthawks and the Chisago Lakes Bulldogs will play an annual game for their own rivalry trophy: the Pizza Pub Mug. The “Mug” is the brainchild of Nighthawks coach Jim Skroch. Since the relatively new town ball teams – this is the third year for the Nighthawks and the fifth year for the reincarnated Bulldogs – are natural rivals who play each other twice a year as members of the Eastern Minny League, management for both teams agreed to do something special to encourage that rivalry. Last season, the teams played a doubleheader at Chisago Lakes, with a picnic in between games. This year, the teams played a doubleheader at North Branch, with a picnic between games along with the first year of the awarding of the Mug. In future years, the Mug game will switch sites, with next year’s game taking place at Chisago Lakes during Karl Oskar Days. The teams will also play a regular (non-Mug) game at North Branch during Midsummer Days. In 2021, the site of the Mug game will be at North Branch during Midsummer Days, and so on.
Each year, the team that wins the Mug will haul it to their local Pizza Pub – either in North Branch or Center City – where Pizza Pub management will display the Mug on a special shelf built just for the trophy. The Mug will be filled with beer and all winning team members 21 or older will take turns drinking out of the Mug.
North Branch 5, Chisago Lakes 1
In this year’s inaugural Mug game, Nighthawk pitcher Jimmy Skroch threw a four-hitter and struck out nine to lead the Nighthawks to a 5-1 win over the Bulldogs. Skroch, one of the top pitchers in the Eastern Minny League, allowed just one unearned run and walked only two batters.
The Nighthawks opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. Tony Dahlberg hit a fly ball to left that was misplayed by the Bulldogs, scoring Nick Pilz to put the Nighthawks up 1-0. In the fourth, a sacrifice fly by Pilz scored Dillyn Negley to make it 2-0. The Bulldogs rallied in the top of the fifth. With two outs, Tommy Fitzer walked, Hunter Lindstrom was hit by a pitch and Nick Wasco reached on an error to load the bases. Dusty Rhodes walked to drive in one run and cut the Nighthawk lead to 2-1. But Tyler Stilp grounded out back to the pitcher and the rally was nipped in the bud.
The Nighthawks broke it open in the bottom of the sixth. With no outs, Charlie Linder walked and Negley reached on an error. Clint Mattson’s sacrifice bunt moved up both runners. Pilz was intentionally walked. That strategy did not pay off for the Bulldogs, as Noah Wolfe singled to right to drive in two runs. One out later, Jackson Leleux singled in one more run and the Nighthawks led 5-1. Skroch allowed a harmless infield single to Fitzer in the top of the seventh but struck out two to slam the door on the Bulldogs. After the second game of the day (below), the Nighthawks hauled the Mug to the North Branch Pizza Pub, where a celebration ensued. It was rumored that one of the Bulldog players joined them and, after a bit of encouragement, took a healthy drink from the Mug his team hopes to win next year.
North Branch 10, Chisago Lakes 2
In the second game of the day, Nick Pilz and Casey Schwalbe drove in two runs apiece to lead the Nighthawks to a 10-2 win over the Bulldogs. Pilz and Jackson Leleux led the Nighthawks’ 13-hit attack with two hits apiece. Schwalbe’s two-run single was the key hit in a five-run seventh that turned the game from a comfortable win into an easy one. Five Nighthawks drove in one run apiece: Noah Wolfe, Tony Dahlberg, Ryan Byrkit, Leleux and Dawson Linkert. Dusty Rhodes led the Bulldogs with three hits and Jeremy Knutson and Dylan Magnuson had two hits apiece. Rhodes and Hunter Lindstrom each drove in a run for the Bulldogs. For the Nighthawks, Matt Robinson started and went 4 1/3 innings for the win. He allowed two earned runs on five hits, walked two and struck out four. In 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, Linder allowed just one hit and struck out four Bulldogs to pick up the save.
Princeton 13, Chisago Lakes 5
The Princeton Panthers only outhit the Bulldogs 13-10 in the June 5 season opener at Chisago Lakes High School, but 10 walks by Bulldog pitchers helped the Panthers to pile up runs and beat the Bulldogs 13-5. Jake Wallraff provided the first big highlight of the season for the Bulldogs. In the eighth inning, he hit a high fly ball to straightaway left that carried over the fence for his first home run – at any level, game or practice. Derrick Kluge led the Bulldogs with three hits, and Miles Turk, Dusty Rhodes and Adam Hanson had two hits apiece. Princeton was later required to forfeit the game, along with two other games, for using an ineligible player.
Chisago Lakes 10 Quamba 7
The Bulldogs scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 7-6 lead and went on to beat the Quamba Cubs 10-7 on Friday, June 7 at Chisago Lakes High School. Ethan Prokosch started for the Bulldogs and went five innings to pick up the win. He allowed six runs, but only three of them were earned. He gave up seven hits, walked three and struck out two. Kyle Byrne gave up just one hit but walked seven in three innings of relief. But he pitched himself out of a couple of bases-loaded jams and only ended up allowing one run. Hunter Lindstrom pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his first save of the season.
With the Bulldogs training 6-3 entering the bottom of the fourth, they used two hits, a walk and a wild pitch to push across the first run of the inning. After another walk loaded the bases, Lindstrom delivered a two-run double to right-center to tie the game at 6-6. Adam Hanson scored on a wild pitch to allow the Bulldogs to take the lead. The Wildcats added two more runs in the fifth, on a run-scoring double by Anders Brown and a sacrifice fly by Rhodes. For the game, Brown, Jake Wallraff, Jeremy Knutson and Tanner Marquardt had two hits apiece and the Bulldogs had four doubles in their 12-hit attack.
Mora 10, Chisago Lakes 1
The theme is familiar. The Mora Mustangs only outhit the Bulldogs 10-9 in their game on Sunday, June 9 at Chisago Lakes. And Wildcat pitchers Hunter Lindstrom and Dylan Magnuson combined to walk just three batters. But the Wildcat defense made six errors and the Bulldogs couldn’t come up with a big hit when they needed it. It all added up to a 10-1 loss for the Bulldogs. Derek Kluge had three hits for the Bulldogs, and Dusty Rhodes and Magnuson had two hits each.