HIBBING — Last week, it took 10 innings to decide a winner when Marble and Hibbing met in an amateur baseball game.
The Miners beat the Mallards 9-8 with a three-run, bottom-of-the-10th rally.
Hibbing manager Jamie Steinberg is expecting more of the same today when the Miners travel to Marble for a 7 p.m. contest against the Mallards at Steve Hecimovich Field.
It will be the second of three meetings between the two teams this season, so technically, Hibbing could win the season series between the two teams.
That, however, is secondary to the rivalry the two teams have developed over the past few seasons.
“It has become one simply because we’re the only two teams up here,” Steinberg said. “We’re in two separate leagues, so that has a lot to do with it. I don’t know if it would be a rivalry if we had that old Arrowhead League.
“It’s East vs. West on the Iron Range. That’s what it has developed into. There’s no animosity. It’s more competitive and that has been very-much noticed by me over the last three years. It’s a battle for the Iron Range championship to see who’s the better team for the year.”
The games are competitive because the talent on each team is similar, according to Steinberg.
“We have strong pitchers, and so do they,” Steinberg said. “Their bats aren’t overwhelming, like us. Their defense is OK, and that’s what I stress about with my team. If our defense was stronger, we would see more success.
“Things would come full circle in our seasons and playoffs. It comes down to who inches more ability that day. In our last game, it came down to who was going to battle at the end to win. It was a gut check.”
Just five games into the season, the Miners are 4-1, including one forfeit win.
Steinberg has been pleased with the way this team is coming together.
“I like the way the guys are gelling right now,” Steinberg said. “We’re getting along with each other, finding out commonalities and we’re enjoying the game through the good and bad times.
“They’ve been great at picking each other up, and keeping their heads cool. That’s noticeable. We don’t give up even when we’re down. We make pushes late in games. We’re a battling group of guys right now. We know we have what it takes. They trust each other.”
There are some areas that need improvement, and Steinberg can pinpoint what happened during that first Marble game.
“When I go back and look at what our problems are, it’s defensively, not being able to put teams away,” Steinberg said. “Our pitching has been getting the job done, but our defense gave them opportunities. Defense is a premium in those situations, and we need to be better at it.”