Prep baseball: Grand Rapids rolls to 7AAA championship – Duluth News Tribune

HERMANTOWN — With a line drive in the glove for number two and number three stranded far from base, it was time to celebrate for first baseman Easton Sjostrand and his Grand Rapids teammates.

There were some mitts thrown on the turf after the Thunderhawks made a return trip to the Class AAA baseball tournament by beating Chisago Lakes 9-2 in Wednesday’s Section 7AAA Finals at Fichtner Field. But feral, injury-inflicting doggie poo by teenagers has largely been saved for another day.

It was a professional celebration that deserves a professional performance by a team that wants to be one place better than the state runners-up in 2021.

“When the playoffs started, they really latched on and focused, and we played the best defense we could,” said Rapids coach Bill Kinnunen.

The liner at first go by the Wildcats’ Reed Marquardt, who doubled against Nicholas Wasko, was the third doubles game the Thunderhawks (16-6) turned in the championship game.

“That’s more than we’ve shot in the last 10 games I bet. We work on that every day. We’ve been inside so long this year that we’ve spent a lot of time working on the double plays,” said Kinnunen.

The first doubles game, a 6-4-3 hit by the Wildcats’ Storm Opdahl, brought Rapids out of their only significant jam of the game after the Wildcats hit two runs in the top of the third inning by collecting four straight singles had away from Thunderhawks pitcher Myles Gunderson.

Grand Rapids’ David Wohlers (3) bats the ball during the Section 7AAA championship game against Chisago Lakes Wednesday, June 8, 2022 at Fichtner Field in Hermantown.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune

“I know Myles. He will dial it again. His arm slit goes down a bit, but stays good most of the time. I have great faith in him,” said catcher David Wohlers.

Chisago Lakes scored early when the teams met in the Winner’s Bracket semifinals six days ago and Grand Rapids responded. This time was no different.

Wohlers reached an error late in the inning and came around to score on Garett Drott’s single. After a double for fourth, Ben Keske hit a two-run homer to double the lead to 6-2.

Wohlers then doubled in the sixth, drove in the first and scored the second of Rapids’ three insurance runs in the inning.

High school boys in black and orange uniforms with white shorts play baseball

Myles Gunderson (1) throws the ball during the Section 7AAA championship game against Chisago Lakes Wednesday, June 8, 2022 at Fichtner Field in Hermantown.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune

Gunderson was in control of the rest, allowing two eight-hit runs (five of them in one inning). Throw away the bad frame and Gunderson threw six scoreless innings with three hits and two walks.

“We weren’t too concerned because we’d seen what happened before and Myles is such a competitor, he gets up and closes the door every time they get a rally going,” said Kinnunen.

Rapids ended with eight goals, two of them from Nolan Svatos.

The Thunderhawks dominated the seven-team tournament, defeating Chisago Lakes 12-3 in their opening game and beating Hermantown 14-1 before holstering the trophy. Doing business wasn’t always that easy.

“That was definitely a problem. We had a problem with teams overlooking and not putting 100 percent in every inning, every pitch, and we talked about it for a really long time,” Wohlers said.

High school boys in black and orange uniforms with white shorts play baseball

Benjamin Keske plays a ground ball during the Section 7AAA championship game against Chisago Lakes on Wednesday, June 8, 2022 at Fichtner Field in Hermantown.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune

The Thunderhawks are awaiting action for the State Class AAA tournament that begins Tuesday in Chaska, Minnesota.

“Same energy, same mentality, and let’s do it again, hopefully we win this time,” Gunderson said.

High school boys in black and orange uniforms with white shorts play baseball

Grand Rapids baseball players hold the trophy during the 7AAA Section championship game against Chisago Lakes Wednesday, June 8, 2022 at Fichtner Field in Hermantown.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune

Leave a Comment