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Prep baseball: Northwood/Solon Springs hopes to pitch itself to the state tournament

The team’s sophomore pitchers have combined for four no-hitters and haven’t allowed more than six runs in any game so far this year.

Northwood/Solon Springs’ Tanner Carlson (7) fires a pitch
Northwood/Solon Springs’ Tanner Carlson (7) fires a pitch in the fourth inning of their victory over Clear Lake in Minong on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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MINONG — Northwood/Solon Springs sophomore Tanner Carlson barely even got to a full count during a 5-inning, 13-0 win over Clear Lake Tuesday.

Carlson allowed just two hits, struck out 10 and, crucially, allowed no walks in his team's 12th straight win.

“I was feeling good going into it and then just right away, I felt my command coming in,” Carlson said.

NSS (12-1) took advantage of a pair of walks by Warriors starter Tyson Blanchard to plate eight runs in the first inning to take command. Kaden Corlett picked up three RBIs, while Abe Ahlberg, Carlson, Gage Blaylock and Ben Dickenson all had two in the game. In addition, sophomore Alex Slivensky also hit his first career home run.

Northwood/Solon Springs’ Alex Slivensky (31) bashes forearms with his head coach Nate Ahlberg (22) as he trots around third base after hitting a homer
Northwood/Solon Springs’ Alex Slivensky (31) bashes forearms with his head coach Nate Ahlberg (22) as he trots around third base after hitting a homer in the fourth inning of their victory over Clear Lake in Minong on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

While the NSS bats were doing plenty of damage — and have all season — it’s the pitching staff that’s the strength of the team.

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The three-man rotation of Carlson, Corlett and Ahlberg has been dominant all season. The staff has combined for four no-hitters so far in 2022 and has a 1.08 earned run average.

“When we’re trying to figure out who we are going to pitch in which games through the week, we don’t really have to stress about it too much,” NSS coach Nate Ahlberg said. “We obviously make a game plan of which pitchers we think would line up better against which teams, but as you saw tonight our No. 3 went and threw and struck out 10 … it’s a great luxury that we can throw that many pitchers at teams at teams and they’re really quality pitchers.”

Carlson, Ahlberg and Corlett can all hit at least 80 mph, with Ahlberg and Corlett getting into the low to mid 80s.

“Our staff is doing a good job of mixing pitches and we’ve got three guys who can throw very hard,” Ahlberg said.

Northwood/Solon Springs’ Abe Ahlberg (21) makes a throw from shortstop to first base
Northwood/Solon Springs’ Abe Ahlberg (21) makes a throw from shortstop to first base in the third inning of their victory over Clear Lake in Minong on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Coach Ahlberg said the NSS sophomore class is “very talented,” but the secret to all the pitchers isn’t really a secret at all. All three pitchers and the talented sophomore class are the result of development from tee-ball all the way through the travel team for the Solon Springs and Minong communities. Ryan Carlson founded the Solon Springs War Eagles, a travel program that all three NSS pitchers have played on since they were nine years old.

“The ability for us to put a team together gave those kids a lot of experience in pitching in championship games and big local tournaments,” coach Ahlberg said. “It’s certainly not their first time pitching in big games.”

The NSS staff hasn’t given up more than six runs so far this season, one a 25-6 win at Clear Lake April 11 and a 6-2 loss to defending Wisconsin Division 2 champion Denmark in the season opener April 1.

Coach Ahlberg knows at a small Division 4 program like NSS, the talent they have in their sophomore class doesn’t come along often.

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Northwood/Solon Springs’ Jared Schultz (2) gets caught in a pickle
Northwood/Solon Springs’ Jared Schultz (2) gets caught in a pickle between home and third base in the third inning of their victory over Clear Lake in Minong on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“You kind of have to ride that wave if you’ve got talented athletes and get as much exposure as you can for those guys,” he said.

Last season, NSS made it to the sectional tournament, but lost to Webster 10-7. This season the goal is to win the sectional tournament and get into the four-team state tournament.

“Our goal is to get all the way to state,” Carlson said. “I know we have tough competition coming up with the Eau Claire teams, but I know when we’re on we can beat any team out there.”

NSS is currently ranked fourth in Wisconsin Division 4, but they will have to beat top-ranked Eau Claire Regis in a winner-take-all game to get to the state tournament.

Eau Claire Regis boasts one of the top pitchers in the state in Cole Selvig, a University of Texas recruit. Selvig throws in the low 90s, coach Ahlberg said.

“We haven’t been challenged a whole lot this year and that will certainly be a challenging game,” coach Ahlberg said. “We just want to put ourselves in a position to be there.”

NSS will take the field again Thursday at Bruce at 5 p.m.

More from Jamey Malcomb
With a batting average of 462 and 23 RBIs and an ERA of 0.58, the Esko junior hopes to lead his to a section title in the tournament that starts next week.

Jamey Malcomb has been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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