By Victoria Dahlin
The North Branch baseball team came out on top in a 10-inning thriller against Cambridge-Isanti in the Vikings’ last regular season game last week.
North Branch scored six in the first and second innings thanks to two, two-run singles off the bats of seniors Dylan Kraemer and Zach Fairbanks.
Up 6-4 in the seventh, the Vikings had two opportunities to put the game away, but defensive miscues allowed the Bluejackets to tie it up as the Vikings also left baserunners stranded.
With two outs in the top of the eighth, C-I posed a threat with a baserunner at second. A base hit followed, sending the runner to round third and head for home. But as the batter stretched for a double, Kevin Johnson quickly fielded the ball and threw it to second for the third out before the man in scoring position reached homeplate.
Meanwhile, Vikings pitcher Thomas Kinsella shut down the Bluejackets in order in the ninth and 10th innings.
In the last of the 10th, North Branch made a threat of its own as batter Travis Anderson reached first and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jake Pilz. Brett Klun was intentionally walked to put men on second and first with one out.
Though Cole Mattson drove a base hit between first and second, Anderson was held at third as the outfielder got a quick jump on the ball. Then with the bases loaded, Kerry Konrad took a swing at the first pitch and drove a base hit to right field to score Anderson and win the game for the Vikings. The final score was 7-6.
Kinsella had two runs, two hits and one RBI; Anderson, two runs and two hits; Konrad, one run, one hit and one RBI; Pilz, one run and one hit; Klun, one hit and one RBI; Johnson, one hit; and Fairbanks and Kraemer both had one hit and two RBIs.
Blake Jorgenson faced 11 batters and allowed three runs and three hits. Michael Naggatz pitched to nine and allowed one run and three hits. Fairbanks threw to six and allowed one run and three hits. And Kinsella faced six and allowed no runs or hits, while Kraemer pitched to five allowing one run and one hit.
North Branch had seven runs, 14 hits and three errors, while C-I had six runs, 10 hits and three errors.
“What a game,” said Coach Steve Christensen. “We came out ready to hit, and it paid off with six runs. Kevin threw a strike. That was a big play. Kerry came up big. That was a great thing to happen to a great kid. He’s worked hard, and he was all smiles. NB pitching never really faltered, giving up only three earned runs. Each pitcher brought their strength to the mound. That’s what you need from them this time of year.”
The North Branch baseball team ended the regular season with a 5-9 North Suburban Conference and now has a 7-13 overall record. If the Vikings win the section playoff game at Chisago Lakes Area Tuesday, May 29, the team will face the winner of the #6 St. Francis versus #11 Princeton game in the section quarterfinal at the home of the high seed at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 31. Section playoffs continue at a time and place to be determined by outcomes of games Saturday, June 1; Monday, June 4; and Tuesday, June 5.