Two years ago, Ero Wallin finished his sophomore season with a reputation as a good player on a solid team in Silver Bay.

Wallin was known in the area as the best hitter and pitcher for the Mariners, but no one expected one of the smallest schools in Minnesota to produce a player with one of the best statistical seasons ever in the state.

He led in 10 different offensive categories, including a batting average of .657, 11 home runs and 67 RBIs. The only category he ranked outside the all-time top five was in home runs, where he ranked sixth, according to the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association (MSHSBCA). He set or tied records for RBIs and a .744 on-base percentage.

What’s more, as a pitcher, Ero was 10-0 as a starter with a 1.01 ERA and 83 strikeouts, good enough for the top 20 in all three categories last season.

Silver Bay senior Ero Wallin walks back to the dugout during a 2021 home game. Wallin was recently named the Minnesota Class A Player of the Year by the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association. (Photo by Lisa Malcomb)
Silver Bay senior Ero Wallin walks back to the dugout during a 2021 home game. Wallin was recently named the Minnesota Class A Player of the Year by the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association. (Photo by Lisa Malcomb)

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Teammate and friend Sully Tikkanen was just glad to be a witness to Ero’s historic season.

“We’ve played together since Little League and just to be able to watch him do what he does,” Tikkanen said, “it’s pretty sick to see that with my own eyes, playing on the same field and the same dugout.”

For his efforts, the MSHSBCA named Ero the Minnesota Class A Player of the Year, and now he has added the Duluth News Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year to his accolades.

‘Work ethic’ honed by farm work

After school finished in 2020 and his junior season was wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ero spent about six weeks working on a farm in Bancroft, Iowa.

When he returned to his home in July 2020, his father and Silver Bay coach Ward Wallin found his son had changed.

“He went down to this hog farm, and he’s working 10-, 12-hour days, and when he gets done working on the farm, he was going to the gym and working out,” Coach Wallin said. “There is just a work ethic to hog farming — it wasn’t all that long of a time, maybe five or six weeks, but it was every single day.”

Ero started working out with a friend on the farm after work, and after he returned to Minnesota, baseball was his motivation to keep it going because he had a goal to play in college.

“I knew if I just sat on the couch when everybody was in quarantine, I’d be falling behind,” Wallin said. “I’d work out every day or I’d go for a bike ride. Every day I tried to throw a ball as much as I could, knowing that my senior season is going to have to be the best year I’ve ever had in my life.”

Tikkanen noticed when Ero came back to school that not only had his physical conditioning improved, but also his demeanor.

“He was always more focused and a more serious person,” Tikkanen said. “He can still be probably the funniest person I know, but he can change to full serious mode in about 5 seconds.”

‘Daggers’ against Cherry

Ero led Silver Bay to 16 straight wins in the regular season after a season-opening loss to eventual Section 7A champion South Ridge. The Mariners fell again to the Panthers in extra innings in the section tournament, and their season ended with a loss to North Woods in the section semifinals.

In the process, though, Ero did what he does best — score big hits against Cherry. His first varsity home run came as an eighth-grader against Cherry in 2017, and his final one was against the Tigers in the third round of the Section 7A tournament.

Silver Bay senior Ero Wallin swings at a pitch during a 2021 home win over Wrenshall. Wallin led the state in 10 different offensive categories this season. (Photo by Lisa Malcomb)
Silver Bay senior Ero Wallin swings at a pitch during a 2021 home win over Wrenshall. Wallin led the state in 10 different offensive categories this season. (Photo by Lisa Malcomb)

“The funny thing is, they were both daggers,” Cherry coach Brian Kemp said. “The one in 2017, I believe, was in the bottom of the seventh, a two-out walk-off. This other one, I think it was 0-0 in the fourth. It was an absolute missile, and as soon as he did it, it was like the wind was gone for my kids.”

While Kemp would joke that he was “glad” he won’t be seeing him in opposing dugouts again, Kemp also holds Ero up as an example to his own players.

“I’ve told a lot of our kids that if you want to hit the baseball, you need to take an Ero approach,” Kemp said. “You need to work hard, you need to get reps, and you need to get in the weight room. He’s done everything right, everything that his dad or any other coach has ever told him, and that’s what’s made him successful.”

St. Cloud State ‘felt right’

After Ero’s dominant season on the diamond, he was still undecided on where he wanted to continue his baseball career — until a visit to St. Cloud State earlier this summer. He said he “fell in love with the facilities” and their reputation as a strong baseball program.

Silver Bay senior Ero Wallin (seated) committed to play baseball next season at St. Cloud State during a ceremony Wednesday, July 14, 2021, with his coach and father, Ward Wallin (left), and assistant coach Nick Bjerken. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Ollila)
Silver Bay senior Ero Wallin (seated) committed to play baseball next season at St. Cloud State during a ceremony Wednesday, July 14, 2021, with his coach and father, Ward Wallin (left), and assistant coach Nick Bjerken. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Ollila)

“When we left, I kind of had the answer in the back of my head, but I didn’t want to say it out loud,” Ero said. “But once I made the phone call telling them that I was going to commit there, it just felt right coming out of my mouth — it was a great feeling.”

Another major motivation for Ero was his grandfather, Al Wallin, who died in 2020, but before he did, he gave his grandson some great advice.

“The last thing he told me before he passed away — I actually have a recording of it on my phone,” Ero said. “He goes, ‘Ero, all you need to do is hit that damn baseball and throw that damn baseball. If you do that, you can go anywhere you want.’”

Ero brings the same intensity to many of the other things he loves. The 18-year-old once said his dream vacation was to go duck hunting in Nebraska. He has painted his own duck decoys in art class and typically has a few duck calls hanging from his rearview mirror.

He’s also following in the footsteps of his mother, Colleen Wallin, as a participant in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. Ero ran the race in January and finished sixth overall on his first attempt.

“My mom and dad always taught me that if you want to do anything, you’re going to have to work hard for it,” he said. “If I want to do something, I want to do it 100%. If I love it, there’s no point in doing it halfway, because then you’re not helping yourself, and you’re not helping anybody else.”

Ero Wallin, a student at Silver Bay High School, is the Duluth News Tribune 2021 All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.  He's shown on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, at his home in Silver Creek Township north of Two Harbors. In addition to playing baseball Wallin is a sled dog musher and an avid duck hunter. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
Ero Wallin, a student at Silver Bay High School, is the Duluth News Tribune 2021 All-Area Baseball Player of the Year. He's shown on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, at his home in Silver Creek Township north of Two Harbors. In addition to playing baseball Wallin is a sled dog musher and an avid duck hunter. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

By the numbers

Ero Wallin’s senior season wasn’t just great — it was one of the best statistical seasons in Minnesota history. He led the state in 10 different offensive categories and was ranked among the top all time in nine, according to the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association.

Batting average.6572nd
Home runs11T-6th
Grand slams2T-2nd
RBIs67T-1st
Hits46--
On base (H, W, HBP)70T-4th
Total bases 904th
On-base percentage.7441st
Slugging percentage1.2862nd
Consecutive game hitting streak245th