Prep baseball: Esko’s Haugen has baseball in his blood – Duluth News Tribune

ESKO – Esko’s Cale Haugen can change the complexion of a game every time he enters the field.

Whether it’s mowing racquets off the hill or using his powerful swing to generate attacks, the Eskomos junior has firmly established himself as one of the best players around.

In a May 20 game against Mora, Haugen hit home runs in consecutive innings and drove in five runs to Esko’s 15-7 win. He followed it up with a five-inning no-hitter and 11 strikeouts in a 14-0 win at Cloquet on Tuesday.

Haugen is currently batting .462 with four home runs and 23 RBIs this season. He’s also ran 20 times in 72 Plate appearances this season.

Could be more dominant from the hill. In seven starts, he has not allowed more than two runs and has a .58 ERA and 73 strikeouts. In his last four starts, he has allowed five hits and hit at least 11 batters in each game.

“Ever since he was a little guy, the first time he picked up a club or a golf club, he had this natural left swing,” said Esko trainer and his father, Ben Haugen. “His mom and I were like, ‘We’re going to keep doing this for as long as we can.'”

Ben coached baseball before his son was born. He recently chased 250 wins and has been coaching baseball for 19 seasons, including four with Hinckley-Finlayson and the last 14 with Esko. Baseball was an integral part of his son’s life and said he “didn’t know any other way.”

Esko baseball coach Ben Haugen signals to a player during the game Monday, May 16, 2022 at Two Harbors.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

“It’s been my whole life,” Haugen said. “I can’t remember the first time I picked up a racquet, but I know I was very young. For as long as I can remember, baseball has been my favorite sport.”

Even before he hit a ball off a tee, Haugen was watching his father at the coach and spending time with the game.

“He’s always been in the game,” Ben said. “He always wanted to play tag. We were always going out in the yard and throwing pop tiles and ground balls, or hitting wiffle balls in the back yard and doing batting drills… I think what sets him apart from other kids in our neck of the woods is that he was playing baseball has more than many of them.”

From the moment he joined the varsity squad last season, Haugen has made a huge contribution. He hit a home run and a double in a win against Virginia in his varsity debut in 2021.

Haugen was due to join the team in 2020 as a freshman but the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But even then, his teammates knew a special player was coming.

Two Harbors Baseball plays Esko at home.

Cale Haugen of Esko watches the ball during play on Monday May 16, 2022 at Two Harbors.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

“He was supposed to be one of our best players as a freshman and then we were canceled,” said Noah Angst. “Going into senior year, I knew he was going to be a big deal. He has a great arm, he can swing. Last year he completely exceeded expectations – with seven home runs, it was ridiculous.”

Angst was a senior last season and now plays for Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Ben said that having Haugen play alongside Angst last season helped make his son a better baseball player. After playing with fear all spring, Haugen started taking the sport a bit more seriously, hit the weight room and improved his overall strength and speed, according to Ben.

“The weight room is a big part of it,” Haugen said. “I never really made up my mind to go in there until probably August last summer and it really made a big difference in how hard I can hit the ball and how fast I can throw.”

Angst said he tried to “lead by example” and that Haugen was receptive to his advice and “took it as constructive criticism, if it was criticism at all”. Despite being a strong player last year, his development since last spring is reflected in his style of play this season.

“He has a big heart as a pitcher,” Angst said. “He wants to beat everyone and he has the pitches to do it. His off-speed pitches are incredible and he knows how to throw them. As a batsman, his racquet speed is unreal. He has such great swing and power despite not being a huge boy.”

Even if his helmet falls over his eyes, Esko's Cale Haugen (5) slides safely into third base

Even with his helmet falling over his eyes, Esko’s Cale Haugen (5) slides safely into third base in the fourth inning of Eskomos’s game against South Ridge on Thursday afternoon, April 21, 2022.

Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram

Ben says his son’s game has been ‘lights out’ lately, particularly on the mound, and although Esko (16-3) is young they have the potential to be a contender for the Section 7AA title, if the tournament starts even next week although the weather has limited their outdoor training time this spring.

“We don’t play seniors, we’re juniors, sophomores and a freshman.” I think we exceeded expectations a little bit, but I think this team has a chance to be really good. We just need to put a few things together and have a chance to practice.”

While Haugen has some individual goals, he’s focused on leading his team to the section championship and hopefully even getting to the Class AA state tournament next month.

“I just hope that I can keep my pace,” said Haugen. “I’m on the right track right now and I hope to be able to continue. Other than that, I just have to trust myself and trust my teammates. I think if we can just believe in ourselves as a team – even if we’re young, I think we can do it.”

Leave a Comment