Prep baseball: Eskomos ‘come up big in the end’ against Two Harbors
Despite a pair of losses Monday, the Agates are having their best season in years.
TWO HARBORS — Clinging to a two-run lead, Esko’s Dylan Marciulionis was in a bad spot in the bottom of the fifth inning against Two Harbors.
Up 5-3, the Eskomo pitcher had loaded the bases and was pitching to the Agates’ Deacon Bark. Esko coach Ben Haugen walked out to the mound to talk to Marciulionis.
“He looked at me and he admitted he was tiring a little bit, but he said he wanted to finish that inning,” Haugen said. “He threw strike one, strike two and then he threw a curveball that Ty (Christensen) was able to smother and step on home plate on the dropped third strike. He responded just like we would want him to.”
With the threat ended, Esko would go on to add four more runs in the top of the seventh to take a 9-3 win over Two Harbors.
Marciulionis allowed three hits over five innings and struck out three batters. More importantly, he only issued three walks in the game.
“I was able to locate my low and away fastball to hopefully get them to be out front and just wave at it,” Marciulionis said. “They would get out front and loop it over, get weak contact and get on top of the ball for easy ground ball plays.”
For much of the game, Agate pitcher Brjen Jones was able to hold the Eskomos in check.
“He kept us off our toes the first two times through the order, which was a little disappointing to me,” Haugen said. “I expected us to be better the second time through, but he mixed it up well and we had a hard time getting them timed up.”
Two Harbors coach Tim Bott said Jones was able to control the base runners. Bott was hoping that the combination of Jones and reliever Anthony Lemke would keep Esko guessing with their different pitching styles. Lemke has a “funkier” release, according to Bott, that Esko batters aren’t likely to see often.
“They see a lot of ones and twos, guys trying to blow it past them and that was not our approach today,” Bott said. “We tried to funk them out and keep them off balance and it worked for a lot of it, but they’re a good hitting team.”
Esko’s Cal Berglund led the way, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs — two in the crucial seventh inning — and Isaak Sertich had two RBIs.
Haugen thought his team let the Agates hang around a little too long, but their bats came alive when they needed to get some separation in the seventh.
“I thought we finished the game well, the seventh inning was great,” Haugen said. “This team’s done that for the most part all year long, where maybe they haven’t played that well but come up big in the end.”
Esko (13-2) is next scheduled to play Hermantown at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Hermantown.
Agates looking for ‘respect'
While Two Harbors also lost to Duluth Marshall 11-1 earlier in the day, the Agates have improved this season.
It was the first competitive game against Esko in several years, according to Bott, and despite the “bumps and bruises” of the last few years, Two Harbors (9-4) has some strong players who give the team a chance to compete every time out.
“We’ve got maybe some guys that baseball isn’t their number one sport or they’ve got other stuff going on that may be a priority,” Bott said. “But you know what, they’re athletic, they’re here and they’re having fun. If we can channel that energy, we can be an effective team. We’ve got pitching this year and it’s really hard to get our lineup out.”
Jones has been playing on the varsity squad since he was an eighth grader and was part of some of the Agate teams that struggled in the past. Bott and his father, assistant coach Tom Bott, have changed the “culture” for Two Harbors baseball.
“Two Harbors never had the best reputation for baseball,” Jones said. “Tim and Tom are trying to change that around and change the culture and make kids want to play instead of feeling obligated to play.”
Bott, a Two Harbors graduate, said his team isn’t quite on the level of Esko or Duluth Marshall at the top of Section 7AA, but he hopes it won’t be long.
“I’m passionate about this town, this community and this baseball program,” he said. “I’m looking forward to our future and I know our players are, too. Hopefully we can start making a little noise and people start respecting us as a ball club again.”
Two Harbors is next scheduled to play at Ashland at 4 p.m. Wednesday.