Cale Haugen pitches and hits Esko to victory

John Gilbert

Carl Haugen, pitching Esko to victory. Photo by John Gilbert.

The timing couldn’t have been better for the word to come out of Chicago last Friday that the Gatorade baseball player of the year for Minnesota is Cale Haugen of Esko. Coincidentally, the senior son of coach Ben Haugen had just put on a fantastic show the day before to lead the Eskomos to a 14-3 semifinal blowout victory over Pine City.  

Haugen pitched all five innings, giving up two hits and only one earned run, striking out nine with great control and good speed. The teams were tied 1-1 when Haugen hit a 2-run home run over the left-field fence — opposite-field for the left-handed hitter — in a 5-run second inning. In the fourth, he singled sharply to right to drive in two more runs and run the score up to 8-1.

In the last of the fifth, Esko built the lead to 12-3 as Sam Haugen, Cale’s sophomore brother, shortstop, and leadoff hitter, socked one over the center-field fence. And Finn Furcht, a big junior second baseman, rifled a line drive into the woods behind the left-field fence that gave new meaning to the term “exit velocity.”

At 12-3, another run would end the game for the 10-run rule, so Cale Haugen pulled another home run to right, a 2-run shot that provided a walk-off victory.  

“It’s fun to strike guys out, but it’s a lot more fun to hit a home run,” Haugen said afterward.  When asked how many home runs he had, he said, “That makes nine, which is a school record. My brother has five, Finn has four, and Isaak Sertich has three.”

Haugen’s batting average is up from .571 with that 3-for-3 day, and asked what his pitching record was, Haugen said: “Let’s see…did I get the win today? Oh yeah, nobody else pitched. Then I’m 6-0.”  

Also a regular in football and basketball, Haugen is a top student and has committed to attend Minnesota State Mankato next fall to play baseball. First he and the Eskomos — who went undefeated all season until dropping a 3-0 finale to Wadena-Deer Creek — have one more test between them and next week’s state tournament.  

Haley Zembo on her way to striking out 15 while throwing a one-hitter for the Superior Spartans. Photo by John Gilbert.

Another regional highlight came last week when Superior beat DC Everett in the regional softball semifinals. The Spartans are loaded, but, as usual, pitcher Haley Zembo and catcher Emma Raye led the way.

Zembo struck out 15 and threw a 1-hitter, but the game was tense and scoreless until Raye smacked a home run over the center-field fence, although the 1-0 lead wasn’t much of a cushion. In the last of the fifth, shortstop Avery Visger doubled, and Raye lined an opposite-field home run over the right-field fence to widen the cushion to 3-0. More than enough.

The Spartans squeaked past Stevens Point 1-0 in nine innings last Thursday and took a perfect 25-0 record to the state tournament.  

Zembo remains virtually unhittable, and Raye’s batting average stood at .595.  

There’s much more. Proctor pitcher Maddy Walsh was leading Rock Ridge 3-1 until the sixth inning when a hard ground ball got through the infield and between outfielders, scoring two runs for a 3-3 tie. The tie lasted until the last of the ninth, when Brooklynn Patterson beat out a bunt single and took second on a ground out.

Then it came to strategy time and Rock Ridge intentionally walked Anika Burke, and got a ground out to leave runners at second and third with two out. Again, Sami Shelton was walked intentionally to load the bases, and her twin sister, Emma Shelton, came through with a single to center, and Proctor won 4-3 and earned a state tournament trip with the 7AA title.  

Walsh walked only one, in the ninth inning, and responded by registering her 12th strikeout and showed similar resiliency after the disheartening loss of the 3-1 lead in the sixth. She allowed only four hits, while the Rails got 13, three each by Brooklynn Patterson and Anika Burke.  

On the adjacent field at Braun Park, Moose Lake/Willow River faced a rejuvenated Silver Bay outfit, which was on a hot streak through the 7A tournament. The streak ended when Moose Lake/Willow River’s Alexis Hoffman, the right-handed half of the Rebels 1-2 pitching tandem, fired a 1-hitter.

The Rebels chipped away, scoring a run in the first and another in the second, then junior Megan Hattenberger broke it open in the sixth, lining an opposite-field triple up the left-field line to drive home two more for a 4-0 lead amid a 3-run rally. The return trip to state gives the Rebels a chance to go one step more than last year, when they lost in the final.  

Boys baseball is also reaching sectional finals. Hermantown earned the right to take on Grand Rapids last Saturday on the Hawks home field, and the Hawks showed their depth and talent all through the lineup. Cruz Runyan took the mound for the Hawks, and he stifled the Thunderhawks on five hits, walking only one and striking out five in going all seven innings. The Hawks broke a scoreless tie with a little small-ball in the third, when a walk, sacrifice hit, and sacrifice put runners on second and third. Garron Opsahl singled for one run, and Wuylee Arro followed with another single and a 2-0 lead.  

It stayed that way until the fifth, when Opsahl doubled to left-center leading off. After an error, Carter Gunderson singled for one run, Bruce Slygh singled for another, and after Rapids changed pitchers, Jimmy Bartsch doubled for two more runs to right, and the 4-fun inning left the Hawks up 6-0 with Runyan in complete command as they prepared for the elimination-round survivor in the 7AAAA final on home turf.