Last Tuesday the Princeton baseball team traveled to Duluth and came home with a tough-luck 1-0 loss to Duluth Denfeld, eventually the only unbeaten team left in the Section 7AAA tournament.
And then the Tigers, 6-16 for the season, lost 10-6 to North Branch here on Thursday to put an end to Princeton’s participation in the double-elimination tournament.
The North Branch loss was a big disappointment for coach Jordan Neubauer and his team, coming as it did to a team that had a 1-20 record, a team Princeton had beaten 15-8 and 10-3 during the season.
“It was disappointing,” Neubauer said. “It does show that the regular season doesn’t matter when you get into the postseason. Maybe we were looking past the game a little but North Branch hit the ball well and deserved the win.”
The last three days of the 7AAA tournament were scheduled for Solheim Veterans Field and last Saturday Chisago Lakes eliminated Cloquet, 3-1, and Hermantown beat North Branch 4-2.
In a game of unbeaten teams later that day, Denfeld used a late home run against Grand Rapids and scored three runs for a 6-4 lead. Grand Rapids scored a run in the bottom of the seventh and had the bases loaded with one out before losing 6-5 when there was a liner that turned into a game-ending double play.
Two games were scheduled for Tuesday of this week in Princeton and then the tournament was scheduled to end on Wednesday, with the possibility of two games that day if Denfeld lost the first game.
The No. 7 hitter for Denfeld got a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning for the only run of the game.
Reid St. George took the loss for the Tigers, despite his third straight good outing. In those three games he pitched 19 innings and gave up only two earned runs, one of them being the Denfeld run.
“He was really good for us the last part of the season,” Neubauer said.
As was the case for much of the season, the Tigers had good scoring chances but couldn’t push a run across, leaving eight runners on base, while Denfeld stranded seven.
There were two runners on base with no outs in the first inning when a liner to first turned into a double play. In the fourth there were two runners on with no outs and they were sacrificed to second and third with one out. But a strikeout and a liner on which the Hunters’ shortstop made a good catch ended that chance.
And in the fifth inning Tristan Scheffel led off with a double but a sacrifice attempt ended with an out at third.
“It was kind of like that throughout the season,” Neubauer said. “We just didn’t get the break-through hit, especially with runners in scoring position.”
Princeton outhit the Hunters, 8-6.
St. George (L) 6 IP, 6 H, R-ER 1-1, 3 BB, 4 SO. Stenoien 4-3; Wesely 3-1; Cook 2-1, SH; Scheffel 3-2, 2B; Drews 3-1, SB.
“You’ve got to tip your hat a little bit,” said Neubauer. “They hit the ball and we didn’t.’”
Compounding the early hitting problems (only two hits in the first four innings) was the Princeton defense, four Tiger errors leading to eight unearned runs among North Branch’s 10, although the Vikings pounded out 10 hits in the first three innings while taking a 9-0 lead.
The game had started well for the Tigers as they made two good throws to put out a North Branch runner at the plate in the first inning. And that was followed by a Princeton runner getting to second with no outs in the bottom of the inning. Not much went right after that, however.
Princeton scored six runs in innings three through five to get within four runs at 10-6. But the Tigers left two runners on in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, losing a run in the sixth when a runner was picked off base with one out, two hits following.
There was still hope in the seventh when the first two hitters walked. But three outs quickly followed and the season was over, the Tigers leaving 11 runners on base.
Tyler Peterson kept the team in striking distance with 4 1/3 innings of hitless relief during which he gave up only an unearned run.
Wesely (L) 1 2/3 IP, 6 H, R-ER 6-1, 1 BB; Scheffel 1 IP, 4 H R-ER 3-1, 3 BB, 1 SO; Peterson 4 1/3 IP, 0 H, R-ER 1--0, 0 BB, 1 SO. Stenoien 4-2, R, RBI, 2B, SB; Wesely RBI; Chase 4-1, R, RBI; Cook 3-2, R, RBI, SB; House RBI; St. George 1-1, R, RBI, 3 BB; Drews R; Krone R; Scheffel 2 BB; Peterson 2 BB.