HIBBING — Trailing 5-4 heading into the fifth inning, the Virginia 2 Junior League baseball team picked the right time to put everything together.
Virginia 2 would go on to outscore Fraboni’s of Hibbing 8-2 over the last three innings en route to a 12-7 Junior League victory Wednesday at Al Nyberg Field.
Virginia 2 coach Jordan Lokken said his team had a three-game winning streak snapped on Monday, so this was a good way to get that taste out of their mouths.
“This win was huge,” Lokken said. “We took a loss on Monday that was bad. We lost to a team we should have beat. We didn’t play well. Coming into Hibbing, that was a good team. To beat them was huge.”
It looked good early on for Virginia 2 when Joey Aho reached on an error, then Zane Lokken walked in the first inning. Ryder Jerulle singled home a run, then with two out, James Toman hit a two-run double to make it 3-0.
Fraboni’s responded with two runs of its own in the bottom of the first.
Beau Frider reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second. Dane Mammenga singled Frider to third, then Thomas Hagen hit an RBI groundout. Nathan Maki singled home Mammenga to make it 3-2.
Virginia 2 would take a 4-2 lead in the third as Tyler Reed walked and advanced to second on a passed ball. Reed took third and scored on a squeeze bunt to give Virginia 2 a two-run lead.
That, according to Lokken, was a key to the victory.
“It started with that sac bunt,” Lokken said. “A lot of people may have questioned it that early in the game, but we were playing for a bigger lead. After that, we kept putting up runs.”
But not before Hibbing would tie the game and take a one-run lead, with two runs in its half of the third and one in the fourth.
Edric Cardona walked and Frider singled. Mammenga lined an RBI single, then Hagen had an RBI groundout.
In the fourth, Drew Forer and Ethan Aune both walked with one out. Cardona walked to load the bases, then Frider singled home the lead run.
Hibbing coach John Mammenga liked the way his team responded to getting behind early.
“It was good to see the kids not roll over,” Mammenga said. “We kept battling. We had some quality at bats, we kept grinding away and got ourselves back in the game. That’s always a positive thing to see from the boys.”
That’s when Virginia 2’s bats started to come alive.
In the fifth, Virginia 2 tied the game 5-5 when Reed and Toman hit back-to-back singles. They moved up a base on a wild pitch, then Reed scored on an RBI groundout hit by Gage Thielbar.
In the sixth, Virginia 2 would take advantage of four walks, two errors and one hit to score four runs to take the lead for good.
Reed had an RBI single, Jerulle knocked one in when he reached on an error, one run scored on a passed ball and one run also scored on another error.
“The kids knew when they needed to put the ball in play,” Lokken said. “We finally weren’t quiet in the dugout. We were chirping the whole time. The game was awesome. We were hitting the ball.
“We threw three different pitchers, and they all hit the strike zone. There wasn’t a weak spot in the lineup, I didn’t feel. We ran the bases well. It was a good night.”
Virginia 2 added to its lead in the seventh when Jerulle hit a two-run triple and scored and a single by Toman.
“Virginia started putting the ball in play,” Mammenga said. “We didn’t do the little things right, not hitting cuts, over throws, just doing the station-to-station baseball. That’s how games get away from you.
“We started alright. We were good early with our pitching, but Virginia kept chipping away at us. We started booting the ball around a little bit, and we started walking a few too many guys. We weren’t doing the little things right.”
Reed, Jack Kendall and Lokken pitched for Virginia 2, combining for an eight-hitter. They struck out six and walked four.
“They did great, but for a little bit at the end when we weren’t getting the strikes we wanted,” Lokken said. “Our first baseman told Zane to pick up his head, and he comes back and throws a couple more strikes and we get the guys out.”
Cardona started for Fraboni’s. He allowed five hits, struck out four and walked 10 in 5.2 innings of work. Maki tossed 1.1 innings, allowing four hits and walking one.
Hibbing just gave up too many free bases.
“The walks are huge,” Mammenga said. “We’re getting some guys some mound time right now. We have to get some more pitchers ready. We have a couple of arms that are sore, and we’re nursing a couple of starters.
“We’re getting some other guys ready. When we get to the end-of-the-year tournament, it’s crucial. You have to go into that tournament with four-or-five guys that can throw strikes. Right now, we’re trying to get a few more guys to throw strikes.”