GRAND RAPIDS — In the two games the Hibbing American Legion baseball team won Wednesday, Post 222 got their lead-off hitter on base in nine of the 14 innings they played.
When the first batter of the inning gets on, it puts pressure on the opposing team, and usually results in runs.
Against Brainerd, the Hornets weren’t as fortunate, getting just two lead-off hitters on base, and Hibbing paid for it as Brainerd defeated it 3-0 in a Substate 10 winner’s bracket contest Thursday at Legion Field.
Riley Versich led off with a single in the first inning, then Austin Glad was hit by a pitch in the fifth, but other than that, Post 222 never posed any real threat to Brainerd.
Not starting innings on a positive note caught to Hibbing in the end.
“Right away, there’s nobody out and a guy is on first,” Hibbing catcher Jaiman Lamphere said. “You have a bunt situation to get the runner over to second. We’re capable of executing that, so getting that first guy on is huge.
“If we don’t get that, then they have the momentum in that inning.”
Versich did start the first with an inning, but a double-play ball wiped that out, and even though Eli Sundquist reached on an error, the Hornets couldn’t get anything going.
Hibbing did get two runners on against Brainerd starting pitcher Eric Martin, with Will Durie and Austin Glad drawing walks, but Martin was able to escape the inning unscathed.
Post 222 starting pitcher Cole Mammenga was just as tough on Brainerd, facing only eight hitters in the first two innings, but after his team went down one-two-three in third, adversity was about to strike.
Mammenga got the first out of the inning, then Hunter Wiklund singled, but when he rounded first too far, Hibbing was able to tag him out for the second out of the inning.
Unfortunately for the Hornets it got worse from there.
Colin Kleffman would single, then McCale Peterson doubled. Max Boran would single home a run, then Ben Jones singled home two runs and it was 3-0.
“We broke down,” Lamphere said. “We had a couple of misplays, and we couldn’t catch the ball. We’ll pick up on that, and hopefully, we’ll get them back again.”
From there, Mammenga was just as effective as Martin.
In the fifth, Brainerd looked to extend the lead when Kleffman singled and Peterson reached on a two-base error.
With Post 222’s infield in, Mammenga got two straight ground outs and a flyout to keep the deficit at three.
Now, it was up to Hibbing’s offense to get the job done, but that never materialized. It wasn’t for a lack of trying.
“We hit the ball just fine, but right at people,” Lamphere said. “We’ve had that in the past. Sometimes we hit the ball hard, but sometimes, they don’t fall in. Everyone has to stay positive. “When we get down, we get quiet.
“We have to stay up, be loud and get into the pitcher’s head. That’s what we do best.”
Mammenga would single with two out in the sixth, but he was left stranded there, then Martin set Post 222 down in order in the seventh to keep his team undefeated in the tourney.
In three games, Brainerd hasn’t given up a run, winning 1-0, 2-0 and 3-0.
Mammenga finished with a six-hitter, striking out three and walking two.
“I felt we did fine,” Lamphere said. “We were up at the plate swinging. We weren’t watching everything. We were swinging and hitting line drives. I had a couple that were deep. Austin had a few deep. We all had a couple deep, but right at people.
“We have had that before, but one day, we’ll get them to fall.”
Martin finished with a two-hitter, striking out three, walking two and hitting a batter.
Hibbing will play at 4:30 p.m., today against West Duluth at Legion Field.
HL 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
BL 003 000 x — 3 6 1
Hibbing: Cole Mammenga (L) and Jaiman Lamphere; Brainerd: Eric Martin (W) and Josh Hukriede; 2B — McCale Peterson.