By Howie Hanson (@HowieHanson)
Hermantown’s high school baseball doubleheader today at Hibbing looms large for both teams, especially for the Hawks who with a sweep would likely snatch a top-four seed and a first round home game in the Section 7AAA tournament beginning next Tuesday.
“We’re currently seeded fifth, behind North Branch, and we’d like to move up to fourth with two wins at Hibbing,” said Hawks Coach Mike Mike Zagelmeyer. “Hibbing did knock off Cloquet, arguably the best team in the area, 2-0 in a wood bat game Saturday. They finished second at state a year ago, graduated most of their key players, and are coming on strong late in the regular season. It’s a big opportunity for our team.”
Brady Baker and Jayden Isensee will draw the pitching starts against the 3-10 Bluejackets, with Wyatt Sonneson available for relief if needed, Zagelmeyer said.
“Baker, Sonneson and Isensee are our Nos. 1-3, who will give us our best chance against Hibbing,” said Zagelmeyer.
Hermantown (8-7) has three regular season games remaining, including a Lake Superior Conference test against Duluth Marshall (13-3) Thursday night at Wade Stadium.
“With the pitch count, we might be a bit pitching thin against the Hilltoppers,” Zagelmeyer said.
Zagelmeyer said the Hawks are poised for a strong regular-season finish and they expect to make a deep run in the playoffs.
“We’ve been playing good ball lately,” he said. “We lost 4-3 at home against a good Esko team on Friday, following a 24-4 win at Eveleth-Gilbert and an 11-1 win against Greenway in our home opener Wednesday. Our team batting average is .322. Sonneson had long home runs against Eveleth and Esko, so it was nice to have someone clear the bases for us.
“We’ve been a little erratic defensively, which really cost us against Esko. Brandon Schmidt pitched a goog game at Ashland, in a 14-4 win.”
Junior left fielder Ben Siljendahl has been a offensive dynamo the last two weeks, Zagelmeyer said.
“Ben’s a talent who’s been tearing up the ball and been very consistent at the bottom of the order,” said Zagelmeyer.
If the 7AAA playoffs started today, Cloquet would be seeded first, followed by Chisago Lakes, Duluth Denfeld, North Branch, Hermantown, Princeton and Grand Rapids. The top-four seeded teams will host first-round home games.
Double-elimination play continues a week from this Thursday and Saturday, at the site of the highest-seeded teams.
“Cloquet is the section favorite, but seeds 2-8 could beat anyone,” said Zagelmeyer. “We lost at Cloquet (10-3), split with Denfeld (L 4-2, W 6-5) and lost at Grand Rapids (9-7). In the playoffs, like all successful teams, we need to pitch, field and hit. It’s no secret formula.”