HIBBING — The Hibbing VFW baseball team will be experiencing a lot of growing pains this summer, and they learned a valuable lesson Thursday.
The young Post 1221 squad took on Grand Rapids, and Hibbing had too many defensive lapses, and Post 1720 made the most of those mistakes, sweeping a doubleheader by identical scores of 8-2 at Al Nyberg Field.
Both Post 1221 managers Tim and Chris Zubich know it’s going to take some time for this team to mature, so they’re staying as patient as they can with this group of young players.
“The first game was similar to our second game,” Tim Zubich said. “We had some better at bats in the first game, but we caught ourselves chasing pitches early in counts. We’re a young team, and it’s coming.
“We need to focus on doing the little things right. We stranded a lot of guys on base in both games. We leave guys in scoring position, bases loaded. We need somebody to clutch up and get a hit.”
Hibbing did have opportunities in both games, and even though Post 1221 hit the ball, it didn’t find a safe place in the field to fall in for a hit.
“We were unfortunate a few times,” Zubich said. “We hit the ball well but right at their shallow-playing outfielders, and we couldn’t score a guy. It’s a work in progress. We’re coming.
“We’re learning some of the little things of the game still, and trying to get better.”
Post 1720 had a 5-0 lead in the first game when Hibbing scored two runs, but those defensive lapses came into the play in the sixth inning, which led to a three more Grand Rapids’ runs.
“The physical mistakes are going to happen, but we’re making too many mental mistakes,” Zubich said. “It’s not knowing what we’re going to do with the ball when we get it. It’s not cutting the right base, and things like that.
“Some of that is the speed of the game that they’re learning, getting better at and we’re still working on. We need to make the routine plays. Both of these games are different ball games if we make those routine plays. As the season goes, we will, but right now, the ball is eating them up a little bit. The games happening a little too fast for them.”
Post 1221 did get eight hits in the first game led by Evan Radovich with three. Payton Forer had two, including a double. Jude Sundquist had a double.
Ren Morque had three hits for Grand Rapids, and getting two hits was David Wohlers. Garett Drotts had a double.
Isaac Colbaugh started for Post 1221. He gave up 10 hits in 5.1 innings of work. He struck out five and walked two Sundquist tossed 1.2 innings, giving up one hit. He struck out two.
Morque tossed seven innings of eight-hit ball for Post 1720. He fanned five and walked seven.
In game two, Hibbing would take a 1-0 lead as Sundquist doubled, took third on a wild pitch, then Colbaugh hit an RBI groundout.
Post 1221 would load the bases, but again, they couldn’t get that key hit to drive in more runs.
“That was important,” Zubich said. “Any time you can play with a lead, you get a little confidence, get rolling that’s a good thing. I just wish we could have built off of it, with guys in scoring position. We have to clutch up and drive them in.”
Grand Rapids tied it in the top of the second as Will Stults hit a sacrfice fly, then in the third, Morque hit a run-scoring triple to make it 2-1.
Post 1221 had runners on base in the second and third runners, but they couldn’t score, then Grand Rapids put the game away with a four-run fourth inning to make it 6-1.
One run scored on an error, two on a double by Miles Gunderson and one a double by Dahltyn Virnig.
“We need to stop the bleeding,” Zubich said. “We can’t give up those bit innings, three, four or five, whatever it is. We have to eliminate those. When the snowball starts going, we have to catch it, stop it and make a play, so we can get out of those innings.
“When the leadoff guy gets on by an error… If they hit the ball, tip your cap to them, but we can’t give it to them.”
Post 1221 would score once in the fourth as Colbaugh singled home Sundquist, who hit a two-out double, then Hibbing had the bases loaded in the fifth, but a double-play ball got Post 1720 out of the inning.
Grand Rapids got an RBI triple from Eckenberg in the fifth, and an RBI single by Wohlers.
“I think we were a little nervous going into this,” Zubich said. “I don’t know why. We’re young, so when you see a good ball team, and they were shaking in their boots a little bit.
“We have to play the ball. Catch the ball. Throw the ball. Hit the ball. It’ll come. This was a good test for us.”
Sundquist and Brice Warner both had two hits for Hibbing.
Gunderson, Virnig and Eckenberg had two hits for Post 1720.
Stults tossed five innings of six-hit ball. He struck out six and walked six.
Radovich tossd four innings, allowing six hits. He fanned one and walked three. Warner hurled one inning, giving up three hits, striking out one and walking one.