Clutch hitting, defense help NB win section opener

The No. 8 section seeded North Branch baseball team hosted and tamed No. 9 seeded Chisago Lakes 4-2 in the opening round of Section 7AAA play last Monday.

Chisago jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but North Branch battled back to 2-1 on an RBI single by Nick Pilz in the second.

The Vikings left men on base in the second and third before filling them again in the fourth inning.

Junior right fielder Jacob Kari hit an RBI double scoring Josh Benolken and Ethan Fairbanks.

Jake Schmitz, who was also on base via a walk, scored on an RBI sacrifice fly off the bat of fellow senior Michael Naggatz.

At the end of the fourth it was 4-2 in favor of the Vikings.

“Kari came up big,” said coach Steve Christensen. “We’d been waiting for someone to come up with that clutch hit. That score would hold through the fifth and sixth innings, as the Vikings defense came up big to help out sophomore Nick Pilz on the mound. He mixed up his pitches really well, and let his defense make some plays.”

Pilz started the seventh only to give up a lead off hit.

Blake Jorgenson then entered the game to pitch, having already saved two games this season.

With a runner on second after an errant pickoff throw, Jorgenson struck out the nine hitter, gave up a single, induced a flyball to left fielder Jordan Franklin, and finished the game on a diving line-drive catch by Naggatz at third base.

“Michael had a great game defensively,” said Christensen. “Fans might see that last catch as a great one, but he made at least two other plays showing his range in the infield. The defense tonight played well in our situations. A few things you seem to practice all the time seemed to actually work in our favor.”

On May 22 the Vikings played their last regular season game and fell 7-4 to non-conference opponent Anoka.

The North Branch baseball team is 2-8 in North Suburban Conference play and 5-10 overall. Next, the boys head out on the road to face No. 4 section seed Anoka at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 30. Section playoffs continue with double elimination at Grand Rapids Saturday, June 1, and Tuesday, June 4, with the Section 7AAA Championship game Wednesday, June 5.

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