Baseball roundup: South Ridge surges toward another state berth
Cloquet, Esko, Rebels end seasons
June 11, 2021
Don’t look now, but the South Ridge Panthers are on the verge of another state tournament after dispatching Silver Bay 7-3 on Tuesday in a nine-inning game in the Section 7A playoffs.
“The win over Silver Bay was huge,” said Panthers coach Aaron Weber. “We knew it would be a close one, but our guys fought till the end.”
The Panthers faced North Woods for the section title Thursday at Mesabi East, with a second game set for 7:30 p.m. if the Panthers lose the first game.
Against Silver Bay Jaxson Bennett threw six innings, but the Panthers needed more arms because the game went two extra innings.
“Jaxson threw six, Wyatt Olson threw two and Aaron Bennett finished it out,” said Weber. “All of our pitchers threw well and Wyatt got out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the bottom of the seventh inning.”
The game was 2-2 entering the top of the ninth when the Panthers struck for five runs, four of which came on a grand slam.
“Jaxson Bennett, Wyatt Olson, Connor Bushbaum and Jackson O’Bey all had big days at the plate,” said Weber. “O’Bey hit a grand slam in the ninth inning, Jaxson Bennett had four hits and Bushbaum added a double and a triple.”
Last Thursday the Panthers knocked off Nashwauk-Keewatin 13-3 as Connor Bushbaum and Jaxson Bennett had four and three hits respectively in the 16-hit Panther attack.
Loser bracket games last Thursday included Carlton taking on North Woods and Chisholm versus Cook County. The Bulldogs dropped a 4-2 decision to Northwoods and Chisholm grabbed a 5-4 win over Cook County.
The victory by North Woods put them in an elimination match up Tuesday with Nashwauk-Keewatin and the win by Chisholm did the same against Cherry. North Woods downed N-K 15-0 and Cherry downed Chisholm 10-7.
Cloquet opened the tournament June 1 with a hard-fought road loss to Grand Rapids in a game that could have gone either way. Against the Vikings it was a different story as North Branch cruised.
The Vikings struck first in the game with two runs in the bottom half of the second inning, but the ’Jacks answered with a pair of their own in the top of the third. The Vikings responded in kind with five runs in the bottom of the third, three more in the fourth and another in the fifth for the final of 11-2.
“We were right there against Grand Rapids and Chisago Lakes in the regular season,” said Cloquet coach Tyler Olin. “My takeaway is I hope future classes upcoming have learned that we can hang with the top teams.”
The Lumberjacks finished the season at 7-15.
North Branch was upset in the opening round by Denfeld.
The Section 7AAA tournament had one lone wolf of the north, Grand Rapids, battling it out with three teams from the southern part of the section: Chisago Lakes, North Branch and Princeton.
Ultimately, the Thunderhawks wrote their ticket to the championship game with an impressive 10-5 win last Saturday over Chisago Lakes, the top seed. Chisago Lakes dropped to the losers bracket but beat North Branch Tuesday to get a chance at redemption.
The championship game between Grand Rapids and Chisago Lakes was set for Wednesday at Wade Stadium in Duluth. Chisago needed two wins.
The two Carlton County baseball teams in the Section 7AA boys baseball tournament were eliminated. Moose Lake/Willow River never made it into the double-elimination portion of the tournament after losing on Monday last week. The Esko Eskomos, the No. 1 seed, lost back-to-back games to Duluth Marshall and Eveleth-Gilbert after opening with a win over Rush City.
After losing a tight 5-4 decision to Duluth Marshall on Tuesday, the Eskomos dropped into the losers bracket and played the No. 6 seeded Eveleth on Thursday. Instead of the top seed moving on, it was the sixth seed that won by a 10-0 score and ended Esko’s season.
“We allowed 10 runs in the first inning,” said Esko coach Ben Haugen. “We put no pressure on them offensively and we had some base running mistakes and that might have cost us a run or two.”
The Golden Bears will now play Pine City in an effort to make it into the semifinals.
In the winners bracket, Aitkin defeated Proctor to advance to a Thursday final against Eveleth-Gilbert.
“We had a nice season, but faltered down the stretch, especially at the plate,” Esko’s Haugen said. “We had a great group of kids and fantastic seniors. I felt like we had talent, but we just didn’t put it together and [play] our best baseball at the end.”