Hermantown baseball coach Billy Tafs couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear after the Hawks’ impressive, 8-3 neutral field win against Grand Rapids in Superior on Monday afternoon.
“It’s a big-time, gigantic win for us in the Lake Superior Conference and against a section (7AAA) powerhouse,” the fired-up Hermantown skipper said. “We’re 2-0 against two of the best teams in our section (including a 10-6, season-opening win at North Branch on Apr. 14), in what basically are early-season practices where we keep score.”
Seniors Dawson Rannow, Wyatt Carlson, Carter Gunderson and Garron Opsahl led the way for the Hawks against the Thunder Hawks.
Rannow, a rocket-armed lefthander and the starting pitcher, allowed one hit and one unearned run in 3 2/3 innings. He also contributed three hits, while Carlson, Gunderson and Opsahl punched out two hits apiece.
The Hawks led 4-0 and rallied late after Rapids scored three runs in the fourth inning, and sophomore righthander River Freeman picked up the pitching save.
“It was terribly cold and our pitching staff didn’t allow an earned run, and we played good defense,” said Tafs of the Rapids game. “We’ve banged out at least 10 hits in each of our first two games.
The Hawks are scheduled to visit Proctor today and Cloquet Thursday.
“It’s the traditional Hermantown-Proctor rivalry game and Cloquet already has two impressive wins against Denfeld and Superior,” said Tafs of the mid-week Lake Superior Conference games against the Hawks’ traditional neighborhood rivals. “We’re mostly concerned about us -- throwing strikes, playing good defense and putting the ball in play offensively. We have a good group who are committed to getting better, who understand that doing the little things correctly is what it takes to win.”
Seniors Bruce Slygh will likely start against the Rails (1-0) and Wylee Arro against the Lumberjacks (2-1), Tafs said.
Meanwhile, Freeman homered twice in the opener and hit the ball hard against Grand Rapids, albeit it finishing with just one hit.
“River’s a baseball player, through and through, and is one of the elite players in our area,” Tafs said of Freeman, a three-sport athlete and the team’s starting catcher and a top pitcher. “His upside in baseball is off-the-charts. He’s a legitimate Division I prospect, as he also is in hockey, a five-tool player with a great arm and a two-hole hitter for us.”