HIBBING — The Hibbing amateur baseball teams has passed plenty of tests this young season, but the Miners biggest exam is coming up this weekend.
That’s because Hibbing is making a southern trip beginning today when it takes on Chisago Lakes in Lindstrom, beginning at 7 p.m.
The road trip continues Saturday with a 1 p.m., contest in North Branch, the at 6 p.m., against Princeton. If that wasn’t enough, the Miners play in Ramsey beginning at 3 p.m., Sunday.
Hibbing manager Jamie Steinberg will find out a lot about his team during this four-game swing.
“It’s our biggest test of the year with a lot of games in a short span of time,” Steinberg said. “Plus, they’re all league games, so they’re all important. Every inning is worth something. Every pitch. Every hit.
“This will be quite a test for our team at a turning point of the season.”
That turning point is halfway through the summer schedule.
“We can look back on a half season of games to see where we’re at and reassess ourselves,” Steinberg said.
The Miners’ biggest obstacle this weekend will come on the pitcher’s mound.
Will Hibbing have enough arms to make through all four games?
“I knew that coming in,” Steinberg said. “I think we’re going to be able to use all of our pitchers. Most of my pitchers will be available at one point or another. I might not have them there for every game, but at some point and time, I will be able to utilize them.
“I won’t be able to be selective as to who pitches against who. That’s going to be limited. How we use our pitchers, there’s going to be a little setback there.”
All of these games are nine-inning contests, so depending on how many arms Steinberg has, he’s going to have to hope that his starters do the majority of the work.
“We’ll have to pick our moments when we can use our bullpen,” Steinberg said. “We have to be able to maximize the innings out of all of our pitchers. If we can’t do that, we’ll have to put guys in there that can throw strikes.
“It might come down to some guys, who haven’t pitched this season. My goal is to be up in these games, so we can save our pitchers to use at other times of the weekend. Overall, it’s not going to be the easiest of tasks, that’s for sure.”
Offensively, Hibbing has hit the ball well this season, but Steinberg said he won’t have all of his players on this trip.
“We will be limited,” he said. “We have guys who will compete and do that job, and I like that. It is what it is. It’s a situation where guys have situations in their lives, and they can’t make it.
“We haven’t had all of our guys at our games, so this will be rolling along like we’ve been doing all season. We’ve been doing OK. It’s going to come down to pitching and defense. Our offense has always been doing the job. I’ll stay confident with that heading into the weekend.”
When asked about the competition, the only thing Steinberg knows about these teams is what he’s seen online in the standings.
“The bottom line is it’s going to be a tough weekend,” Steinberg said. “I don’t know anything about the teams other than in the standings, Chisago Lakes is probably the most-struggling team we’ll face all weekend.
“The other three teams are in the middle ground in the league. They have some wins and losses, but it looks like they will be competitive. That’s my outlook. Chisago Lakes, we might be able to control that game, but the other three games will be a dogfight. It’ll be competitive, especially with who we have coming down. We’ll have limited guys.”
One thing is certain. Steinberg will get a good look at this team during the three-day trip.
“We’ve progressed in being able to getting off to a decent start facing league competition,” Steinberg said. “It needs to get better when it comes to having all of our guys. That’s always the goal, and it’s still our goal.
“It’ll be that way even after this weekend.”
Hibbing’s next home game will be held Sunday, July 7, when they host the Mora Blue Devils.