HIBBING — The last time a Hibbing Community College baseball team won a division was the spring of 1997.
The wait for another division championship has officially come to and end.
That’s because the Cardinals clinched at least a tie for the Northern Division crown Sunday when they defeated Rainy River 8-6 and 12-2 in five innings at Al Nyberg Field.
Hibbing, which beat the Voyageurs twice on Saturday, still has two more games remaining, against Vermilion at home Wednesday, but the Cardinals now have a 13-1 division mark, and they own the tiebreakers over the Voyageurs and Itasca.
Hibbing manager Dave Bevacqua said last week that he’d be happy with three wins out of the four games, but this team went the extra mile and got the sweep.
“We knew that four-out-of-four would put us as division champs,” Bevacqua said. “We can still be co-champs if we were to lose against Vermilion, but we’re letting the kids know that this has been a long time coming.
“They’re excited about that, and so am I.”
Hibbing went about its business both in International Falls and Hibbing, and even though the Cardinals’ performance in the 8-6 win wasn’t stellar, they stayed strong and focused to get the job done.
“You always talk about one-game-at-a-time, and that’s the way they approached everything,” Bevacqua said. “I know their goal was to sweep this thing, but they approach it one-game-at-a-time, every at bat, even until the end here.
“To finish this with a walk-off for the 10-run rule, that was exciting and dramatic in itself, even though it was 10 runs. It was cool to see somebody hit one like that.”
Chanler Dilday would get the pitching win, tossing 5 2/3 innings of seven-hit ball, striking out six and walking six. Brody Mundell hurled 1 1/3 innings, striking out two and walking one.
It all sounds good, but the Cardinals almost let a six-run lead slip away.
Four of those runs came in the first inning when Evan Jerome hit an RBI single, Jordan Perez a two-run double and Dylan Montagna a run-scoring single.
Jerome had a sacrifice fly in the second inning to make it 5-0, then Sammy Rivera doubled home a run in the fourth to make it 6-0.
That’s when things got a little hairy.
The Voyageur would score three runs in the fifth on a three-run double off the bat of Vincent Rifiel, then Rainy River scored three more runs in the sixth to tie it.
Brandon Holbert had an RBI double, one run scored on an error during the inning.
“We made some mistakes defensively,” Bevacqua said. “We made some mistakes on the bases. We jumped out to an early lead, and we’ve had that happen to us a couple of times this year.
“We get out early, then we kind of took our foot off the gas a little bit. It came back to hurt us. Defensively, we had a couple of errors that gave them unearned runs.”
Fortunately for Hibbing, it was able to respond in the sixth as Jaiman Lamphere singled, then he scored when Carson Dobias singled, but the ball was misplayed in the outfield for a three-base error.
Dilday would single home the second run to give the Cardinals that two-run lead.
“We came back and scored the runs to retake the lead,” Bevacqua said. “That was nice to see.”
Mundell did the rest, facing four batters in the seventh, to get the save.
Dilday finished with three hits, and getting two each were Rivera and Lamphere. Perez and Rivera had doubles.
Holbert had three hits for Rainy River.
Jesse Carmona took the loss, giving up 12 hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked two.
The Voyageurs didn’t want to get swept again, so they started with two runs in the first as George Pimentel singled home a run, then Rifiel hit a sacrifice fly.
That lead didn’t stand long as Hibbing scored four times in the second, led by a two-run home run by Dobias. Kennie Rivera had an RBI groundout, and Sammy Rivera had an RBI single.
“We’ve been so good offensively, and we knew that they were down in their pitching,” Bevacqua said. “You’re in the fourth game, and their pitching depth was going to show that.
“I thought, offensively, that we’d be able to take care of it. We did struggle a little bit, but again, we came back quickly.”
It also helped that the Cardinals would add three runs in the third to lead 7-2.
Dobias hit an RBI single, as did Ramon Morales, and the third run scored on a passed ball.
Hibbing ended the game in the sixth with five runs. Two of those came off the bat of Ray Santacruz, who had a two-run single, the Simon Fishgold hit a three-run home run off of the light pole in right field to end the game, and send the Cardinals to their second-straight playoff berth.
Bevacqua has been coaching for nine seasons, and he’s finally getting this program to where he wanted it to be when he took over for longtime coach Mike Turnbull.
“Everybody wants to win championships, but it’s not only that,” Bevacqua said. “We’ve been playing well. It’s the little things. You watch them and see the closeness they have. They play well together.
“That makes all of the difference in the world. We can add different guys to the lineup. Simon came in off of the bench and filled in for somebody else. That’s the lineup that we have, and that’s fun to watch.”
Mundell started for Hibbing and only worked two innings. He gave up four hits. Andrew Zamora worked two innings to get the win. He struck out two and walked four. Jerome worked two innings, striking out two and walking one.
Sigurdson started for Rainy River. He gave up seven hits in 2 1/3 innings of work. He struck out one and walked three. Febus tossed three innings, giving up three hits, striking out three and walking two.
Dobias had two hits and three RBI. Fishgold had three RBI, and Santacruz had the one hit and two RBI.
RR 000 033 0 — 6 7 8
HCC 410 102 x — 8 12 2
Rainy River: Jesse Carmona (L) and Brandon Holbert; Hibbing: Chanler Dilday (W), Brody Mundell (S) (6th) and Jaiman Lamphere; 2B — Holbert, Vincent Rifiel, Tucker Hauschen, Jordan Perez, Sammy Rivera.
RR 200 000 — 2 4 1
HCC 043 005 — 12 10 0
Rainy River: Sigurdson (L), Febus (3rd) and Holbert; Hibbing: Mundell, Andrew Zamora (3rd) (W), Evan Jerome (5th) and Lamphere; HR — Carson Dobias, Simon Fishgold.