The North Branch baseball team won its first three section playoff games, upsetting higher seeds Anoka and Elk River, and then lost the next in Section 7AAA double elimination play.
After defeating No. 9 section seed Chisago Lakes 4-2 in the first playoff game May 27, the No. 8 seeded Vikings traveled to Anoka and shut out the No. 4 seed Tornadoes 1-0 May 30.
The team had hosted Anoka only a week earlier in regular season competition and lost 7-4.
Ethan Fairbanks scored from second base on a RBI single shot to right field by Jake Schmitz. Also getting a hit a piece were Josh Benolken, Charlie Linder, Nick Pilz, Jake Pilz and Jacob Kari.
Michael Naggatz pitched four strong innings, faced 15 batters and allowed no runs, three hits and struck out one. Kari finished off the win, while facing 11 batters and allowing no runs, two hits and striking out four.
North Branch had one run, six hits and no errors, while Anoka had no runs, five hits and one error.
Last Saturday the team faced No. 1 section seed Elk River at Portage Park in Cohasset and came away with a 5-1 upset victory.
Blake Jorgenson took the mound in the first and didn’t leave until it was done. He faced 30 batters and allowed one earned run, four hits and struck out six.
“He pitched great, mixed it up, and got some big outs through strikeouts or defensively behind him,” said coach Steve Christensen. “Offensively, we were able to score a few on a passed ball, and a bases loaded walk, but the big hit was a two run double off the bat of senior Matt Solberg. That was a big one; it gave us a little more breathing room.”
Last Saturday North Branch took on No. 2 section seed Forest Lake in Grand Rapids and fell 12-3.
After giving up seven runs in the first inning, the Vikings came back to score three in the top of the second. Franklin and Benolken scored runners on fielders’ choice, while Fairbanks drove in N. Pilz with a single.
Fairbanks had one hit and one RBI, while J. Pilz had one run and one hit. Franklin and Benolken each had an RBI, while Rob Osowski and Michael Hensch each got a hit, and Linder and N. Pilz were each good for a run.
Jared Axberg faced 17 batters and allowed one earned run, four hits and struck out two. Tyler Dolin faced 10 batters and allowed four runs (three earned) and two hits, while N. Pilz pitched to 10 batters, allowing seven runs earned runs, six hits while striking out one.
“Nick Pilz took the mound and struggled a bit,” said Christensen. “Forest Lake hits the ball well. If you look at their lineup, they have tough outs 1-9 in the order. They’ve responded well to situations offensive and defensively.”
As of press time, North Branch was scheduled to take on the winner of the No. 1 section seed Elk River versus No. 3 seed Grand Rapids game in Grand Rapids Tuesday, June 4. A win in that game will advance the Vikings to Section 7AAA Championship play versus No. 2 section seed Forest Lake at Grand Rapids 4 p.m. Wednesday, June 5.