Hibbing 2 downs Aurora

Hibbing shortstop Beau Frider applies a late tag as Aurora’s Hank DePew steals second during the fifth inning of their Iron Range Junior League playoff contest Tuesday at Al Nyberg Field.

HIBBING — To see one inside the park home run in a game is unusual. To see two, what would be the odds?

That’s what happened Tuesday when both Thomas Hagen and Beau Frider hit those round-trippers in leading Hibbing 2 to an 11-3 Iron Range Junior Baseball League playoff victory over Aurora at Al Nyberg Field.

In another oddity, Hibbing 2 also turned a 2-1-4 double play to end the game and send Hibbing two into the championship bracket. Hibbing 2 will play at 4 p.m., Friday against either Deer River or Virginia 1.

Even Hibbing 2 coach John Mammenga thought it was an unusual game, but he was also pleased with the way his team performed after a slow start.

“We started so flat,” Mammenga said. “I can’t believe how flat we were in the early innings, then we sparked it in the fourth and got things going a little bit. We went flat again for a little bit, then we put together a big inning toward the end to get some more runs on the board.

“It was a strange game.”

Hibbing 2 didn’t start slow, scoring two first-inning runs to take the early lead.

Edric Cardona walked and stole second and third. He scored when Dane Mammenga reached on an error. Mammenga would eventually score on a single by Andrew Slatten.

Getting on top early was something Mammenga wanted to see.

“The importance of that is that we wanted to play in the top bracket,” Mammenga said. “You have to be in that bracket to win the championship. If you drop one early, you’re playing in the consolation bracket.

“I don’t know many guys that get fired up for that right out of the gate.”

Hibbing 2 starting pitcher Cardona kept Aurora off the board for three innings, but Aurora nicked him for a run in the fourth to make it 2-1.

Zac Nordberg walked and took second on a passed ball. He would eventually score on an errant pickoff throw.

Hibbing 2’s bats went cold over the second and third innings, then after Aurora scored, Hibbing 2 responded big time.

Carson Brown led off the bottom of the fourth with a single, then on a run-and-hit, Cardona singled through the hole between first and second. Brown scampered home to make it 3-1.

Frider followed with an RBI base hit, then Mammeng singled.

Hagen then lined a shot to the 385-foot mark in center field, scoring both Frider and Mammenga. Hagen was waved around third, and he scored to make it 7-1.

Mammenga never hesitated sending Hagen home.

“Thomas hits the ball hard, and he can get the ball out to the fence like that,” Mammenga said. “He has great speed. When you see a kid like that hit one in the gap, it’s easy to send him even if the play is going to be close.”

Getting that six-run lead gave Hibbing 2 a little breathing room.

“Our players finally loosened up a little bit,” Mammenga said. “They started having fun, and that’s when we started playing good baseball. I don’t think we were too nervous or tight at the start of the game, but we were playing flat.

“Once the boys started having fun, those are the kinds of things that happen. The runs seem to come easy.”

Aurora would score once in the fifth on an RBI double by Kruse, then it plated one more run in the sixth when Landon Luke singled, took second on a wild pitch and scored when Blake Nordberg singled, then it was misplayed for an error.

Leading 7-3, Hibbing 2 started its half the sixth inning when Frider lined a shot to the right-center field wall. When the Aurora center fielder fell down, Mammenga, again, didn’t hesitate sending him home for the second inside-the-park home run of the game.

“You take a good, hard swing and that’s what happens,” Mammenga said. “You have a runner with speed. Once Beau got it into the gap, it’s easy to send him at that point.”

After that, Hagen hit an RBI single, Slatten had an RBI groundout and Tyler Fosso scored on a wild pitch to make it 11-3.

“Once you get those runs, you don’t worry about that one bad inning where the wheels can fall off,” Mammenga said. “When you get that lead, you can play loose. You can take each batter one at a time, shut the door and be done.”

Aurora wasn’t about to give in, and with one out in the seventh, DePew walked, stole second and took third on a wild pitch.

Kruse drew a walk and when the ball got past catcher Dane Mammenga, DePew tried to score.

Mammenga retrieved the ball and tossed it to Frider, who tagged out DePew. Kruse tried to take second, but Frider’s throw to Slatten was in time to tag him out for the unusual double play.

“Those things happen,” Mammenga said. “They’re fun to watch, and what a way for the game to end.”

Cardona pitched six innings, allowing four hits. He struck out five and walked four. Frider struck out one and walked two in one inning of work.

Luke tossed six innings, giving up 10 hits. He struck out six and walked four.

Hibbing’s second through fourth hitters went 6-for-12, with seven RBI. Frider, Hagen and Mammenga all had two hits.

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