MARBLE — The No. 6 Eveleth-Gilbert American Legion baseball team found their groove just a little too late in their substate playoff opener, falling to No. 3 Wadena 9-4.
Post 138 struggled out the gate as they tackled Wadena’s ace on the hill in Lleyton Pettit. Pettit surrendered no runs on just three hits in his five innings of work while striking out five along the way.
Eveleth-Gilbert started Will Bittmann on the mound. Bittmann pitched 2.2 innings, giving up three runs. He was pulled after 45 pitches in order to remain eligible to pitch in Post 138’s next game on Friday.
At the plate, Wadena started with two runs in the first inning. A walk to leadoff hitter Tony Kreklau followed by a single to shallow left-center from Josh Dykhoff put runners on first and second. No. 3 hitter Payton Rondesvedt laid down a bunt but a throwing error to first from the Bears let two runs score.
Wadena added one more to their tally with Bittmann still on the mound. In the bottom of the third, Dykhoff led things off with a double to center. He later advanced to third on a wild pitch and then came home on an RBI single up the middle from Isaac Hamann.
Carter Flannigan took over for Bittmann after Hamann and pitched his first innings since April after an injury kept him off the field.
Flannigan surrendered three additional runs in the third inning, giving Wadena the 6-0 lead after 3.
Post 171 tacked on two more to lead 8-0 after four and scored one off Jaden Lang in the fifth to then lead 9-0.
Eveleth-Gilbert finally found some consistency in the sixth, scoring four runs to come alive late.
Carter Mavec reached on a one-out infield single. Tate Uhan was then walked while a single from Brandon Lind loaded up the bases.
Bittmann then came through with a big double to center field, clearing the bags and getting Post 138 on the board, 9-3.
Flannigan next up, the E-G offense didn’t slow down with the third baseman singling to right to score Bittmann. While the Bears couldn’t get any closer than 9-4, E-G skipper Jamie Lindseth said it was a solid ending to the game after a sloppy start.
“They didn’t give up, which was good,” Lindseth said. “To see them fight back was good but we were lacking in the fundamental stuff in the beginning and that was frustrating.”
The loss means Eveleth-Gilbert will have to fight through the loser’s bracket to keep their season alive, something Lindseth says his team is used to.
“We’re not done and we’re used to going this route. We’ve had success with our backs against the wall before. It’s not ideal but we know we still have baseball to play.”
With potentially many games still left to play, Lindseth made sure to not let any pitcher go over 45 pitches, meaning they’ll be ready to go should they be needed on Friday.
“Thankfully we saved all of our arms. Everybody comes back. 45 pitches means one day of rest and we don’t play again until Friday so we’ll be good there.
With Flannigan’s appearance on the mound being notable due to his time off, Lindseth was positive on the direction he looked to be headed in.
“He was a little rusty in his first inning but I thought he pitched pretty well in his second. He hasn’t thrown since April so there’s going to be a little bit of work to do but I liked how he finished before his 45 were up.”
E-G will be back in action on Friday and will take on the loser of No. 2 Virginia and No. 7 Taconite in either Marble or Nashwauk.