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The sun came out a couple of times last week, before the monsoon hit, and area college and high school baseball and softball teams came out of hiding to play actual games in Duluth — something we weren’t sure we’d see this spring.
First, on the college scene, where the artificial turf at Wade Stadium got a workout last Friday and Saturday by the UMDF and St. Scholastica baseball teams. Without it, they might have been reduced to leaving town to play, or possibly scheduling at Superior’s great new complex.
UMD went first, m and they needed something good to happen in this long and child spring. In Northern Sun play, the Bulldogs had lost a few tough ones, and some that were not so tough, and had a 5-17 league record when they ventured onto the Wade Stadium turf to face Mary. The Marauders played the Bulldogs through a 0-0 first inning, but UMD struck for four in the second and then six in the third and went on to pound out 27 hits to whip Mary 22-3 in the first game of a doubleheader.
It was a therapeutic blowout for the Bulldogs, as a lot of hitters got healthy. Especially in the third inning, when the Bulldogs ripped hit after hit around the ballpark. When the inning was over, UMD had scored six and led 10-2. When the game was over, left-hander Rice Dietrich had gone six innings for the pitching victory, but the batting order looked like the good old days revisited.
Leadoff man Henry George went 3-4 with 3 runs scored and 3 RBIs; No. 2 hitters Drew Stewart went 5-6 with 3 runs and 5 RBIs; Tyler Wojciechowski went 2-4 with 2 RBIs; McCale Peterson, the shortstop, went 4-5 with 4 runs scored and an RBI; Cory Krolikowski went 3-3 with 2 runs and 3 RBIs; Tim Pokornowski, the freshman catcher from Cloquet, pinch-hit for Krolikowski and went 2-2 with a run and 3 RBIs…and so on and so forth.
As often happens in the case of such Division 2 blowouts, the second game of a doubleheader is a complete reversal. This one was, too, but UMD prevailed in a 3-0 pitcher’s duel. Mitch Waletzki went the first 7 innings and gave up 4 hits, 4 walks and struck out 7 before Alex Ferguson and McCale Peterson finished in relief.
At the plate, Eric Yechinich tripled in the fourth to break the scoreless tie, then he scored on a ground out for a 2-0 lead. Gage Merhar homered in the sixth for the 3-0 final.
The teams met again Sunday over in Superior, and UMD prevailed again for a four-game weekend sweep, which lifts the Bulldogs to a far more presentable 9-17 NSIC record.
St. Scholastica had Wade Stadium for Sunday, and the Saints romped to a sweep over Minnesota Morris, winning the first game 11-1 in 7 innings, and taking the nightcap 9-4.
Aaron Weber had three hits in the first game, while Eric Pearson, Brad Fossum and Lane Girtz had two each. In the second game, Joey Zwak, Pearson and Weber had two hits each to allow the Saints to keep pace with Bethany Lutheran atop the UMAC standings with 14-2 records. Northwestern is third at 12-4, with playoffs looming this weekend.
Softball keeps pace
Bethany Lutheran is also tied for first in UMAC softball, along with Wisconsin Superior, both at 12-0 going into this week’s play. St. Scholastica is third at 9-3, with Northwestern 9-5.
The Yellowjackets are always tough in softball, and the UMAC players of the week were both from UWS. Bailey Armstrong, a freshman from Forest Lake, was the player of the week after going 12-19 — a .632 average — and drove in 8 runs with a triple and home run and three multi-hit games as the Yellowjackets went 6-0 in their makeup-filled week.
Former Denfeld power pitcher Ashley Taipale was the league pitcher of the week, winning two of those six victories with two complete games, 14 strikeouts, only 4 hits, and an 0.62 earned-run average for the week.
The UMD softball team had a huge sweep at Upper Iowa, winning 8-0 in the first game as Breanna Swint threw a 2-hitter, bolstered by a 7-run cushion in the first inning. The Bulldogs took the second game 17-8 and now have a 26-17 record.
UMD has a pair of home series this weekend, taking on Southwest Minnesota State at 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, and coming back Sunday to face Sioux Falls at noon and 2 p.m. The NSIC tournament is May 2-4.
It’s reassuring that the baseball and softball teams in the Twin Ports can actually find room amid the rain squalls and snowstorms to get some home games in.