by Eric Oslund
The Zimmerman Thunder baseball team made their way up to Cloquet for the first round of the Section 7AAA tournament. It was one of those odd games where if you were to just look at a stat sheet, you would think the Thunder won fairly handily, but then you see the score and they ended up falling 5-3.
It’s been the same story for a majority of the season. The Thunder will out hit a team, but end up losing, and the reason why always seems to come back to walks and errors.
“They jumped up 3-0 right away,” Zimmerman head coach Chris Riley said of Cloquet in the first inning. “Nate Carlin started for us and he had four of his seven walks in the first inning and they kind of capitalized with a double then. I think we had one error, so they got one earned run, technically, that inning. So that kind of put us in a hole right from the get go.”
But instead of letting an inning like that snowball, like it’s done other times throughout the season, the Thunder were able to settle down and move on from it. Carlin especially, as he came back out after throwing 42 pitches in the first inning to having a string off innings where he shut down their opponents in just 10 or 11 pitches.
“It was good because he bounced back and kept doing what our game plan was,” Riley said of his starting pitcher. “Didn’t get complacent about trying to do too much. I think that’s what we’ve been preaching the last few weeks, ‘One out at a time and your goal is three outs an inning.’ They’ve kind of started to buy into that a little bit here towards the end.
The Thunder were also able to battle back offensively, by getting two runs in the third inning and another one in the sixth to tie it up 3-3.
They had pretty much taken Cloquet out of the game and seemed to be ready to complete the come-from-behind upset win, but then the bottom of the sixth inning came a calling. The bottom of Cloquet’s order was due up, and it seemed as though the Thunder were going to get back up to bat quickly, especially with the way Carlin had been pitching.
But Cloquet had other plans. They started off with a double and then drew two more walks to load the bases with one out. At that point, all it took was a ball to bounce over the pitcher’s head and into the outfield to change the momentum.
“We just chose to play everyone in because we’re not a team that really does double plays really well, necessarily,” Riley explained. “So at that time we were just trying to play for the out at home, hopefully, and get to that two outs and then get back to normal depth. But he hit a hopper over the pitcher and it was just out of the reach of our two guys pinching in. Went through to the center fielder and two guys were able to score.”
The head coach went on to explain that the first run scored on the hit, and the second one scored because the ball snuck under the center fielder’s glove. Once again it was errors and walks that cost the Thunder a win, but they are not done yet.
They still have a shot at making it through the section tournament, but it all starts with cleaning up their mistakes and focusing on the little things.