Prep baseball: Greyhounds finally have a big inning of their own to down Denfeld
Too often this spring, the Duluth East baseball team has been victimized by big innings. It's one of the leading contributors to the Greyhounds' 2-13 record, which doesn't accurately reflect their competitiveness against a relentless schedule featuring some of the state's best big schools.
Tuesday, for example, East trailed Stillwater 3-2 before yielding an eight-run third to the Ponies in an eventual 14-4 loss.
The Greyhounds enjoyed a role reversal Wednesday at Ordean Field, where they used a marathon 10-run third inning to down Duluth Denfeld 13-3 in six innings.
"We've seen it happen. Our guys know what it looks like — we just haven't done it," East coach Chris Siljendahl said of putting up crooked numbers. "So it was nice to see them execute and extend an inning. It feels a lot better being on this side of things."
"Extend" might be an understatement. The frame felt like it'd never end.
The totals: 14 batters, 10 runs, four hits, five walks, three Denfeld pitching changes, a 15-degree temperature drop (at least) and one eagle sighting.
It was the kind of rally that makes a mess of scorebooks.
"It hasn't happened a lot this year, but it feels nice to start producing, string hits together and get our pitcher some rest," Greyhounds junior third baseman Kyle Doup said.
Doup and fellow junior Brendan Baker keyed the uprising, which followed the Hunters' three-run surge in the top half of the inning. Baker forged a 3-3 tie with a well-struck double that one-hopped the fence in left-center field. Doup, meanwhile, cleared the bases when he tripled to the same part of the outfield, giving East a 10-3 lead.
Minutes earlier, what had been record-setting warmth in Duluth abruptly turned to more seasonable weather. It started when the wind switched, kicking up ag-lime funnels in the infield and sending hats and wrappers flying. Northland baseball fans showed their preparedness by quickly slipping hoodies over short-sleeve shirts and blankets onto laps. Thanks, Lake Superior.
In center field, the flag began blowing out, a fact that wasn't lost on Doup, who said he shortened his swing on the two-strike triple.
"The wind obviously played a factor," he said. "I hit it on the barrel, saw it go over his head and turned on the jets. I was looking three the whole way."
The Greyhounds finished with a statistical oddity — 13 runs on five hits, just one more than Denfeld.
The Hunters (10-6) simply couldn't get out of the third, which rankled coach Cal Fougner. Denfeld had just received RBIs from Ben Emmel, Eric Gibson and Alex Knuth to jump ahead 3-0.
"That's been our Achilles heel all year — if something goes wrong, we have to find some way to stop it," Fougner said. "We didn't do that today, and it's something we have to figure out."
Baker nearly ended the game in the fifth with a two-out triple of his own, which should have been called a ground-rule double and which Baker tried to stretch into a home run. The ball bounced around deep in the right-field corner, by the track and field team's discus area. But nobody called the play dead, so Baker kept huffing. Or maybe "lumbering" is a more apt description.
"The only reason I sent him is because I don't think he'll have another opportunity for an inside-the-park home run," Siljendahl said. "There's no way I could hold him up right there. When I saw him rounding third, he looked pretty gassed."
Baker tried to dance around the tag at the plate, to no avail. As it stood, he collected his third RBI of the afternoon. He might have had a higher power working in his favor — Baker had to hurry from the ballpark to get confirmed.
East junior Evan Carlson relieved starter Jaxon Edwards in the third and settled into a groove. He inherited a bases-loaded, no-out situation and allowed all three baserunners to score, but that was it. Carlson, appearing in his first varsity game, ended up yielding two hits over the final four innings. And it was his RBI single in the sixth that brought out the mercy rule.
Duluth East 13, Duluth Denfeld 3, 6 innings
At Ordean Stadium. WP: Evan Carlson 4IP, 0R, 1H, 3K, 3BB. LP: Nate Johnson. DE: Brendan Baker 2x4 (3B, 2B), 3RBIs, R; Kyle Doup 3B, 3RBIs. DD: Ben Gibson 1x2, RBI.