AURORA- North Woods got off on the right foot in the Class 7A sectional baseball tournament on Tuesday, thumping Mt. Iron-Buhl 14-4, but then stumbled against Nashwauk-Keewatin in the nightcap to …
AURORA- North Woods got off on the right foot in the Class 7A sectional baseball tournament on Tuesday, thumping Mt. Iron-Buhl 14-4, but then stumbled against Nashwauk-Keewatin in the nightcap to fall into Thursday’s elimination bracket.
The Grizzlies’ first two batters, Louie Panichi and Cole Thiel, wasted no time in roughing up MIB pitcher Rylen Niska. Panichi scorched a shot down the left field line for a stand-up double, and Thiel followed up with a towering home run to left. With Jake Panichi and Andrew Zika collecting RBIs, North Woods led 4-0 after one inning and appeared positioned for a quick and easy rout.
But the Rangers had other plans, tying the game in the top of the third and knocking North Woods starter Caleb Uchal off the mound with the bases loaded and two out. Jake Panichi stepped in and avoided potential disaster by forcing a ground ball that shortstop Zach Cheney turned into the third out.
Thiel came through again in the fourth inning, rapping a bases-loaded, two-out double that drove home two runs to retake the lead 6-4.
The Grizzlies used active bats and aggressive baserunning to turn the heat way up in the next inning, with Jake Panichi and Ben Kruse rapping a pair of RBI singles that ended Niska’s run on the mound. MIB reliever Damian Tapio fared no better, giving up a sizzling bases-loaded triple to Louie Panichi to extend the lead to 11-4. One more run gave the Grizzlies an eight-run advantage after five innings.
The lead gave North Woods Head Coach Jeff Smerud the opportunity to swap Panichis in the top of the sixth. Louie took the ball from Jake and retired the only three batters he faced.
Then, in the bottom half of the inning, with Grizzlies at second and third, Louie Panichi ripped a grounder past the MIB third-baseman into left field, scoring both runners and ending the game 14-4.
The Grizzlies would have liked to carry over some of those runs into their night game against fourth-seeded Nashwauk-Keewatin. The Spartans largely held the Grizzlies in check in ringing up a 5-2 win. Additional game information was not available by press time.
The Grizzlies dropped into a Thursday afternoon contest against eighth-seeded Carlton, who lost 11-1 to state-ranked South Ridge on Tuesday. The winner stays alive to play again, the loser goes home.