HIBBING — There will be plenty of baseball going on in Ely and Soudan this weekend.
That’s because the Iron Range Junior League Baseball Tournament will continue with all three Hibbing teams involved with the festivities.
At 1:30 p.m., Hibbing 1, or MN Twist Drill, will play Grand Rapids 2 at Memorial Stadium in Ey, then at 4 p.m., at Memorial Stadium, Hibbing 2, or Fraboni’s will play Virginia 1. Both games are winner-bracket contests.
At 1:30 p.m., in Soudan, Hibbing 3, or Village Realty, will play International Falls in Soudan in a consolation-bracket game.
Fraboni’s manager John Mammenga, whose team is coming off a win over Aurora, knows what it’s going to take to get to the title game.
“It all starts with our pitchers being in the strike zone,” Mammenga said. “The last time we played Virginia, we had eight or nine walks, and the game got away from us. We lost by two or three.
“If you take the walks out of the formula, we can hit with them. If we take the walks out, we stand a good chance.”
The mound duties, at least to start, will belong to Dane Mammenga, but the elder Mammenga doesn’t want to stick with him all that long.
“I’m hoping he can start, if his arm feels good,” Mammenga said. “We also have to be careful with innings. You only get 10 over the weekend. If things are going well, and we’re putting up runs, I might want to go with a 2-2-1 formula.
“It’s important to win that first one and not burn pitchers. You need that pitching to make it to the championship game.”
Even with that pitching, it won’t be easy to advance in this tournament.
“There’s some good players in this league on all of the teams,” Mammenga said. “I’ve noticed as we’ve played our schedule and locked horns with them, they all have talent, and that’s what has made it a fun summer.”
As far as his teams’ hitting goes, Mammenga hasn’t worried about that all summer.
“I’ve been confident with it,” he said. “When we’re swinging the bats, we make good contact, put the ball in play and make the defense make a play. We have been watching a lot of strikes lately, and we’re going down looking.
“I’d prefer them to swing out of their shoes.”
Mammenga believes it’s a wide-open tournament. Any number of teams could win it.
“I want them to keep their nerves in check, go out there and have fun and play our game,” Mammenga said. “We can play with anybody in the league. We have to keep our composure and play our game.
“It’s a simple formula, but not easy to do. I’m just hoping to see some good baseball today, but a first win would be huge.”
Brian Anderson’s MN Twist Drill team will also need some good pitching to win, but that’s one area of his team that has been a strength this summer.
Logan Gietzen, Liam Bussey, Drew Anderson and Luke Nelson are four of those hurlers, along with Luke Camell.
“Our pitching should be a positive for us,” Anderson said. “We have some solid pitchers.”
Offensively, Hibbing 1 is solid at the top of its lineup, but the middle to lower parts of the order must contribute, too.
“Our hitting has come around,” Anderson said. “We had a couple of guys in the middle of it struggling, but they stung the ball well in practice Wednesday. That’s a good sign heading into the playoffs.
In an earlier game against Grand Rapids 2, MN Twist Drill lost a close one, so Hibbing 1 will try to turn the table on their foe from the west this time around.
“We have to get off to a better start than last time,” Anderson said. “We have to minimize our mental mistakes that we had in that game. I believe we can put together a good game, without having those ups-and-downs.
“We have those lapses, but they’re kids. If we make an error, they have to pick each other up. They have to show their support for one another. We have to let our talent take us as far as we can go.”
Hibbing 1 didn’t have a first-round game, so Twist Drill will be getting its first taste of playoff action.
“I hope we’re ready to play,” Anderson said. “They have the talent. They have to believe in themselves and get the job done. This field is wide open with Fraboni’s, both Virginia teams and Grand Rapids has two solid teams.
“Whoever plays their game and minimizes their mistakes will win the tournament. Hopefully, it’s us or another Hibbing team.”
The Village Realty team lost it’s first-round game Tuesday to Ely by the score of 4-3, but Coach Tom Aune liked the way his team played in the contest.
“We had a decent game,” he said. “We had a couple of errors that hurt, and we didn’t hit the ball until it was too late. Our bats came alive in the seventh inning.”
Not bad for a team that has no 15-year-old players.
“Last year, we didn’t win a game,” Aune said. “This year, they’ve progressed, and they’re playing well. We’ve competed with most everybody, but we didn’t get the chance to play Virginia because of COVID-19.
“Even so, it should be a good couple of days.
The key, according to Aune, is playing good defense, and getting those bats to come alive.
“We have to do what we need to do,” Aune said.
Aune said he’ll start Ethan Eskeli on the mound, but he also has the option to use six or seven other pitchers, if need be.
“We’ve had a few guys see a little time on the mound,” Aune said. “We try to get people on the mound to see what they can do.”