HIBBING — With only two games remaining in the regular season, the Hibbing American Legion baseball team has to get down to business.
Post 222 did some of that over the weekend at the Gopher Classic, and even though they did lose five games at the tourney, Manager Adam Schafer saw some good things out of his ballclub.
Now, Hibbing must put together a winning streak, and that can start today when Post 222 travels to Cloquet to take on Post 262, beginning at 5:30 p.m., at Ed Mettner Field.
Hibbing lost two lopsided games over the weekend, but Post 222 also had some bright spots in the final three games of the tournament.
“Anytime you’re going out in five, you don’t feel good about yourself, but in three of the games, we had a lead at some point, and we were behind by a run in another,” Schafer said. “A lack of depth and pitching is what hurt us in the end.”
Hibbing led both Lakeville South and Omaha in the middle innings, and against Bloomington Gold, Post 222 only trailed by a run in the middle innings.
“A lack of depth and pitching kind of came back and bit us,” Schafer said. “When you’re running with nine or 10 guys… The guys competed. They went out there and played as hard as best as they could.”
And that’s all Schafer could ask of his team.
“We wanted to compete, which was good to see,” Schafer said. “I wish we could have all of our guys on the field at the same time so we can be at our best, but the guys that we’re there came to play baseball.
“They played hard. It wasn’t a weekend get-away. That’s the most important thing — the competitiveness they showed. I didn’t see any difference in our competitive level from the guys from the first game through the fifth game.”
Hibbing still needs to iron out some bugs before the playoffs begin next week.
“Our hitting was inconsistent at times, but we did put some nice stretches together,” Schafer said. “The top of our order has been the kick-starter for the offense. Pitching-wise, guys got some innings in, and that’s important as we head into playoffs.
“Defensively, we’re not at one or zero errors. That’s what it’s going to take to get deep into the playoffs. We have a week to improve.”
As far as Cloquet goes, Schafer doesn’t know too much about them, but the Lumberjacks did eliminate the Bluejackets from the 7AAA playoffs last spring.
“Hibbing played them tough, but a base-running error was an impactful play during that game,” Schafer said. “It’s going to take Eli (Sundquist) and Codieh (Powers) in our last league game of the year, so we’re set in the pitching department.
“Now it’s a matter of if we have 12 or nine guys there. We’ll rely on our pitchers and offensive, which through this weekend, started to heat up. That was good to see.”
After seeing five good teams at the Gopher Classic, Post 222 should be ready to compete in the sub-state.
“When you go down there and play those teams, you elevate your game to be able to compete,” Schafer said. “That’s what we want going into playoffs. It’s been five months of baseball for these guys, so these hitters should be locked in, seeing the ball.
“Defensively, we have to pick up the ball and throw strikes.”