Prep baseball: No. 2-ranked Esko continues pitching excellence with win over Cloquet
Starting pitcher Dylan Marciulionis surrendered only one hit over five innings pitched in a 12-2 win.
ESKO — Before the start of the season, Esko head coach Ben Haugen expected the team’s pitching depth to be one of its greatest strengths, with the entirety of its staff back from a season ago.
Now, through 18 games, the prediction has more than rang true.
The unbeaten Eskomos (18-0) have featured six different starting pitchers over the course of the season, with Dylan Marciulionis being the latest to take the bump in a 12-2 win over Cloquet, Tuesday, at the Esko Sports Complex.
The right-handed junior tossed all five innings in the winning effort, racking up six strikeouts while surrendering only one hit in the process to improve to 3-0 on the season.
“He’s pitched really well for us this year. His strike to ball ratio (today) wasn’t what it has been, but that’s what baseball is,” Esko head baseball coach Ben Haugen said. “You have to be able to get through the tough times because baseball’s built on failure. It isn’t always going to go well and the guys that can persevere through that usually have more success.”
In 28 innings pitched, Marciulionis has struck out 36 batters using a devastating mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches, including a signature pitch that he’s been able to hone this season.
“It’s a little splitter. I’ve been throwing it for like five years,” he said. “This year it got really good, and I’ve been focusing on that more and getting guys out with weak contact and striking guys out with that pitch.”
Over 18 games, Esko has yet to surrender more than five hits in a single contest, with opponents collectively hitting a paltry .146 against its pitching staff. The staff as a whole boasts a collective 1.10 ERA led by Cale Haugen at 0.28.
The wealth of capable pitchers on the Esko roster who collectively boast a variety of different skill sets and strengths offers coach Haugen with no shortage of options to choose from in any given game situation.
“I’m not gonna lie, it’s a lot of fun to have choices. And we’ve got guys who don't have a lot of innings this year that can pitch,” he said. So yeah, it’s a luxury to have for sure.”
Marciulionis, after a one-two-three opening frame, benefited from the team’s early run support as the Eskomos jumped out to a 4-0 lead in their first time up to the plate.
Finn Furcht drove in the first two on a hard-hit grounder to score Cale Haugen and Isaak Sertich, who reached on a single and a walk, respectively.
A line drive base hit off the bat of Cal Berglund followed by a double by Trent Ondrus pushed the final two runs of the inning across.
Jack Battaglia’s RBI single in the top of the third stood as the lone hit of the game for the Lumberjacks, with offense coming in short supply. Still, the club trailed by only two runs in a 4-2 game after 3 1/2 innings thanks to a sacrifice fly by Jaedyn Novy in the fourth inning to score courtesy runner Matthew Erickson after Brody Dushkin reached on an error.
The Eskomos, after two scoreless trips to the plate, loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fourth with cleanup hitter Cale Haugen and Isaak Sertich due up to the plate. Cloquet pitcher Drew Angell nearly got out of the jam by retiring both hitters before Bryce Hipp stepped up to the plate.
One swing later, the Eskomos saw their lead grow to 8-2.
“He’s been working his tail off and just hit a laser and blew the game open,” Haugen said of Hipp. “I just think it was that at-bat. We could’ve gone down there and not gotten anything with bases loaded and it’s a 4-2 ballgame, and it’s a completely different game, but he had a great at-bat and kind of blew the doors open for us.”
The blast was Hipp’s first of the season.
“I was up 3-1 in the count and I was looking for fastball down the middle, and he gave it to me,” Hipp said. “So I just gave it all I got and it went.”
Finn Furcht and Jamis Halverson followed suit for the team’s 17th and 18th home runs of the season to extend Esko’s lead to 11-2 over the next two innings. A double by Cale Haugen ended the game in the fifth with a 12th and final run scored.
WP: Dylan Marciulionis 5IP, 0R, 1H, 3 HBP/BB, 6K. LP: Aidan Sievert 3.1IP, 7R, 7H, 4BB, 1K. C: Jack Battaglia 1 for 2, RBI; E: Bryce Hipp 2 for 2 (HR), 4RBI, R; Finn Furcht 2 for 3 (HR), 3RBI, 2R; Cale Haugen 2 for 3 (2B), RBI, R; Jamis Halverson 1 for 1 (HR), 2RBI, R.