Signs of Luck May Bring Spring After All

John Gilbert

Even Carlson jogged home after a wild pitch for a Duluth East run that would prove important in the 14-13 victory over Hermantown. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Even Carlson jogged home after a wild pitch for a Duluth East run that would prove important in the 14-13 victory over Hermantown. Photo credit: John Gilbert

Maybe things are starting to come around. Time to get on a hot streak. You never know. It started when my wife, Joan and I decided that our schedules finally allowed us time to take advantage of some small sliver of Homegrown Music Festival last Saturday. We had missed several favorites, but one that remained was Bill Bastian, the fantastic singer/motorcyclist who was going to perform at Sir Benedict’s last Saturday night.

We pulled into the Sir Ben’s lot, and found nothing resembling a parking place. Across the street, however, in the small lot that serves Va Bene, the easternmost end metered spot was open. I looped in and parked there. Just to make doubly sure, I checked the meter, which was only hungry until 5:30 p.m., although I was reaching in my pocket for quarters, just in case. We love to go to Va Bene, and we also enjoy the greatly underrated food at Sir Ben’s, where they make their own smoked butternut squash soup, among others, and some great sandwiches. We walked in, and the place was jammed. We walked toward the counter, but had no chance of getting there.

So we stopped and stood, never getting closer, and greatly enjoyed Bastian’s performance, although we felt guilty we hadn’t been able to get any food. When he was done, we left, walked back across the street, and drove away. The next day, as I was shifting my stuff to a different pair of jeans, I noticed my odd little key chain was missing. Small chain, three or four keys, and a couple of things like a Whole Foods award number tab. I checked every pocket of every pair of jeans, every sweater, every jacket, everything I might have worn even for a minute. Nowhere.

Elusive set of keys escaped, but only to spend a night unnoticed in a parking lot. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Elusive set of keys escaped, but only to spend a night unnoticed in a parking lot. Photo credit: John Gilbert

Now, it’s a great source of pride to me that I do not lose keys. We have several family deals about this, and while one of my sons tends to misplace keys, cell phones and everything small enough to set down, and Joan has misplaced her share of keys, too, I never lose mine. So I was out of sorts, and determined to find these keys. I searched every crevice of the car I was test-driving, and even looked on the driveway surface. We went downtown later, Sunday, and I stopped in Sir Benedict’s just in case they might have been found on the floor and turned in to lost and found. Nothing. We left. And as we drove away, I played a hunch and drove across the street into that little parking lot. As I drove slowly through, Joan said, “Wait a second.” She hopped out, walked up between the two end vehicles, and right near the parking meter, she bent down and picked up some really foul, dirty but familiar keys on that weird little ring!

That was Sunday night. On Monday afternoon, I drove into town and saw a lot of cars at East High School, so I pulled into the lot and saw that Hermantown was playing East in a high school baseball game. Always looking for a good photo opportunity, I walked in, joking with a few fans who looked like they were bundled against a January blizzard more than at a Mayhems ballgame, thanks to the harsh wind coming in off the big lake. It might have been a great game, but it was not. It was ragged, messy, and it started out 3-2 for Hermantown, then went the other way when the Hawks walked the bases loaded and then, after a couple runs scored on wild pitches, Drew Grindahl cleared the bases with a triple to right-center. I had to leave, but as I did, I couldn’t help joking with a few fans that it was 6-5, but “this one could end up 14-13!” We laughed.

I left. An hour later, returning home, I wondered if the game might still be going on, so I pulled up there. A good friend, just leaving, stopped me and said, “I hope you made your pick in Vegas.” I turned and looked at the scoreboard. East had won 14-13!
Hmmm…First finding the keys, then guessing the season’s most outrageous baseball score. What next?

 

Freshman Sam Pederson, who pitched North Branch into the state tournament a year ago, is now half of UMD's pitching tandem with Breanna Swint. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Freshman Sam Pederson, who pitched North Branch into the state tournament a year ago, is now half of UMD's pitching tandem with Breanna Swint. Photo credit: John Gilbert

UMD Women head for Oklahoma

Jen Walter was only a little worried, but she couldn’t feel too confident as she awaited word on the NCAA Cantral Region softball seedings. The Bulldogs had been eranke seventh, out of eight, before coming out of the loser’s bracket to win two before being eliminated from the Northern Sun tournament. The word finally came down: UMD was ranked No. 8, which means that this week, the Bulldogs got to fly off to Edmond, Oklahoma, with their 33-20 record, to face Central Oklahoma, the No. 1 ranked Division II softball team in the country at 45-5.

UMD is the fourth of four NSIC teams in the regional, behind No. 2 Winona State (50-7), No. 3 Augustana (51-9) 
, and No,. 7, Set. Cloud State (43-16). UMD at 33-20 is in, MSU-Mankato at 37-19 is out.
“I was worried; it was touch and go,” Walter said before heading for the airport. “In my four years here, the Northern Sun has really become tough from top to bottom. Last year, we expected to do well; this year, if you told me we’d be starting a trip to the regional…I’d say we’re resilient. We’ve done it a little with smoke and mirrors, and with a No. 8 seed going against the No. 1 team in the country, nobody has a lot of expectations for us.

“But our players are not going to be intimidated, and if we can pull a big upset…who knows?”
Leading the way for the Bulldogs — who never found their way onto their own home field until the final weekend of the season, after playing nearly all their home games on a makeshift diamond on the football turf — is a timely hitting gang led by Jordyn Thomas, a sophomore first baseman from Hermantown, who is hitting .344 with 9 home runs and 35 RBIs; Lauren Oberle, hitting .321 with 9 homers and 33 RBIs; Jessica Bren, hitting .283 but with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs; and Emma Frost, hitting .267 with 6 homers and 19 RBIs.

Maybe more important, the pitching tho of junior Breanna Swint and freshman from North Branch Sam Pederson has stabilized into a truly dynamic duo. Swint has a 16-10 record with a 2.77 earned run average, and Pederson is 15-7 with a 2.94 ERA.
One of the most positive things for the Bulldogs is that the forecast is for some stormy weather — but in Oklahoma, when they say story, they mean rain. Not snow, or ice, or 50 mph wind off Lake Superior.