GRAND RAPIDS — Teams that receive consistent pitching day in and day out are the teams you see playing for a district title in late summer.
As of late, the Grand Rapids Post No. 60 American Legion baseball team has been getting that type of pitching. During the recently-completed Grand Rapids American Legion Baseball Invitational, Post No. 60 got four consecutive complete games from its deep pitching staff before losing to Superior in the semifinals in extra innings.
Grand Rapids’ good pitching continued Friday evening at Bob Streetar Field in Grand Rapids where three Post No. 60 pitchers combined to shut out Hibbing by a 5-0 score. Combining for the shutout and four-hitter for Rapids were Wyatt Zuehlke, Isaac Gustafson and Brooks Bachmann. The three pitchers combined to walk four and fan six in the victory.
Grand Rapids manager Bill Kinnunen said his pitchers threw strikes when they had to on Friday to escape several early jams.
“We also made plays when we had to,” Kinnunen said. “We also got ourselves in trouble a couple times making errors and walking guys, including walking the leadoff guy which is a no-no. They got out of it and all three guys threw very well.”
Hibbing manager Adam Schafer said his team played well against a good Grand Rapids team.
“It takes a full seven to beat a pretty good team like Rapids,” Schafer said. “We were behind 1-0 and we had the bases loaded with no outs and we didn’t get a run, and we had runners on second and third with one out and we didn’t get a run. So we left some guys on base; we needed that clutch hit and we didn’t get it.”
Grand Rapids scored the only run it would need in the bottom of the first inning off Hibbing pitcher Codieh Powers. Gideon Beck led the inning off with a double and scored on a one-out single by Owen Linder. Zuehlke followed with a double but a nice double play turned by Hibbing limited Post No. 60 to just one run in the inning.
Meanwhile, Hibbing threatened several times early only to see Grand Rapids escape unscathed. After leaving a runner on in the first inning, Hibbing loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the second. However, pitcher Zuehlke struck out two hitters and induced a fly out as Grand Rapids clung to its 1-0 advantage.
Hibbing stranded two runners in each of the third and fifth innings with Gustafson on the mound as Post No. 60 led 1-0. That changed in the bottom of the fifth inning when some key Grand Rapids hits coupled with a couple of Hibbing miscues translated to four runs and a 5-0 lead. Zuehlke had a RBI double in the inning while Luke Kinnunen ripped a two-run single. The other run in the inning scampered home on an error.
Bachmann pitched the final two innings for Rapids as Post No. 60 took the 5-0 win.
Kinnunen said it was a game where Post No, 60 was able to use some pitchers who have not seen much action. Zuehlke has not seen much mound time while Gustafson bounced back with a good three-inning stint after a fine start in the recent tournament.
“Next week are the district counters games for the seeding for the district tournament so we were saving some guys for that,” Kinnunen said.
Schafer said Powers settled in well on the mound after a rough first inning. He said it would have been nice to get a lead to play with.
“Who knows if we are up two or three, then Cody is really locked in and pitching with even more confidence,” Schafer said. “Hats off to Codieh as he kept us in the game for a
long time. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played and I think we are heading in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.”
Hibbing with the loss is now 3-7 for the season.
Grand Rapids is 10-3 for the season and will play Cloquet in a district counter game on road Monday, and then it will play Hibbing on the road in another counter Tuesday. Post No. 60 then has a doubleheader against the Superior Reds on Wednesday starting at 5 p.m.
“I am very happy with our pitching but we need to nail down the defense and we can’t make mistakes at key times. That is what has cost us the games that we have lost this year,” Kinnunen explained.
HL 000 000 0—0 4 3
GR 100 040 x—5 7 1
Hibbing: Codieh Powers (L), Ryne Sampson (6th) and Hayden Westerberg; Grand Rapids: Wyatt Zuehlke (W), Isaac Gustafson (3rd), Brooks Bachmann (6th) and Collin Dibb; 2B-Wyatt Zuehlke 2, Gideon Beck.