HIBBING — When Tim and Chris Zubich started the 2018 VFW baseball season, they knew they had some work to do to mold Post 1221 into a contender.
It’s taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but the Zubich brothers have molded this team into a accomplished bunch of players.
Hibbing will find out just how far it has come when the District 8 playoffs begin Monday at Legion Field in Grand Rapids.
Post 1221 will take on West Duluth at 1:30 p.m., in the single-elimination tournament.
How far has Hibbing come in one short summer season?
“We’ve definitely improved over the course of the year,” Tim Zubich said. “We have been playing some pretty good baseball, but there has been a game or two where we didn’t.
“Otherwise, we’ve been improving. We’re starting to figure things out defensively. We’re starting to peak late in the season.”
According to Zubich, they haven’t treated this season any differently than in past years, even with such a young team.
“We look at it the same every year,” Zubich said. “We have to learn the skills and the game, but sometimes, we can get into some different things. We try to focus on getting better, and see what happens at playoff time.”
Of the three facets of the game, which one has Post 1221 improved the most?
“Pitching,” Zubich said. “We’re walking a lot less guys than we were earlier in the year. Our biggest problem was free passes. That’s been better lately.”
Three of those pitchers that have improved are Brody Niskanen, Isaac Colbaugh and Payton Forer, among others.
In a single-elimintion format, it’ll be critical for Hibbing’s pitchers to be around the plate.
“That changes the strategy,” Zubich said. “In a double-elimination tournament, you might be able to gamble with your rotation a little bit. With a single-elimination format, you’re going home if you don’t throw one of your better pitchers.”
Post 1221 just recently played West Duluth on Tuesday, and they split the games.
If Hibbing wants to advance then pitching will be the key.
“We have to throw strikes and pick up the ball,” Zubich said. “We have to do the little things right, then we have to keep our emotions in check. In the playoffs, if you have a good inning, you’re floating high.
“If you have a bad inning, you may start floating a little low. We have to stay right in the middle, and hopefully, jump into an early lead. That way, we can get some confidence going.”
Hibbing did get the third seed, while West Duluth got the sixth seed, but Zubich isn’t putting any stock into that.
“It should be a good game,” he said. “They made some plays defensively, and they swing the bats well. We are the third seed, but three through seven, that could have gone either way. It was a difference of a point or two.
“One through eight, anybody can beat anybody. That’s what I’ve seen. We have to play all seven innings, and if we do everything right, we should be there at the end. At the same time, we could be eliminated in the first game. We’ll see what happens.”