Nick Sabato/Lakeland Times

Lakeland catcher Brandon Boh makes a diving catch on a foul ball behind home plate during the second game of a doubleheader at Northland Pines on Tuesday, May 15.
Nick Sabato/Lakeland Times

Lakeland catcher Brandon Boh makes a diving catch on a foul ball behind home plate during the second game of a doubleheader at Northland Pines on Tuesday, May 15.
EAGLE RIVER - Lakeland Union High School finally found some offense (and wins) over the weekend by winning its own baseball invite.

On Tuesday, the Thunderbirds traveled to Northland Pines for a twin billing, looking to climb out of the Great Northern Conference cellar in one last chance to improve their resume prior to the WIAA playoff seeding meeting the following day.

It was a grind in both games, but Lakeland was able to hold off the Eagles in both games to secure a pair of much-needed conference wins.

"We were playing for a home game in the playoffs tonight and we'll probably end up being the No. 4 seed," LUHS head coach Mike Wilhelm said. "I don't know if they understood the importance of the two games we were playing for the playoffs. We're out of the conference (championship) race, but that's OK. Everybody makes the playoffs. If we can be our best baseball coming into the playoffs, I think we've got a shot."



Comeback win

The first game of the doubleheader didn't have a shortage of runs, something that may have doomed Lakeland just a week before.

The third inning saw each team post five runs, leading to a 7-5 lead for Northland Pines.

After a five-run inning gave the T-Birds the lead, allowing five runs in the bottom of the inning would have demoralizing in the past.

This time the T-Birds stayed in the game, scoring a run in the fourth before taking the lead for good in the sixth and adding insurance in the seventh for an 11-7 win.

"That's kind of been our M.O. lately is that we get down and then we fold, but we've been preaching mental toughness and fortitude in practice," Wilhelm said. "All of those things, we put them into action and we can be a pretty good baseball team if we can put into action everything that we work on."

Jamie Slavinsky had a huge game at the plate for Lakeland, going 3 for 5, with four RBIs, including a 2-run double in the third and driving in the game-tying run in the sixth. Michael Campbell continued his stellar play from over the weekend by going 3 for 4 with an RBI and scored the game-winning run on a balk by Pines pitcher Zack Ciran.

Brandon Boh also went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs.



Small ball

After racking up 14 hits in the first game, Lakeland wasn't able to duplicate the same amount of production at the dish.

Instead, the T-Birds had to rely on small ball. Only a double by Gunnar Weitz was their lone extra-base hit in the game.

Lakeland managed to get on base through singles, walks and errant throws by the Eagles. Once on base, aggressive baserunning and crafty plays in the 7-3 win.

"It was us moving station-to-station," Wilhelm said. "A couple big hits here and there. Jamie had a day, Brandon Boh had a day at the plate, even Gunnar Weitz put the ball in play and had a good day. But it wasn't a lot of big hits, it was moving station to station, get on first base, steal them over to second and knock them in. It was one of those things where we manufactured a lot of runs and put ourselves in position to score runs."

The game was summed up in a four-run third inning.

With runners on the corners, Collin Quade intentionally got caught in a rundown, allowing Campbell to score from third. After a Slavinsky single and subsequent stolen base, Northland Pines couldn't complete the throw to first base after a ground ball by Caleb Menzia. A double by Weitz moved Menzia to third and a sacrifice fly by Tate Olson scored him before Weitz scored on another error at first on a grounder.

A few costly errors in the outfield allowed Pines to cut the lead to 5-3 in the top of the fourth, but back-to-back RBI singles by Weitz and Olson gave pitcher Parker Biertzer the insurance he needed.

While not a flashy outing, Biertzer was steady in six innings, allowing just one earned run on eight hits and only walking two batters before Menzia came in for the save.

"Parker is a kid that we know is just going to pound the zone," Wilhelm said. "He just throws strikes and lets our defense work. Our defense played very well tonight - a few snafus in the outfield that's kind of been a running thing - but we recovered from those things and Parker isn't going to walk anybody. He's going to pound the zone, he's going to make them put it in play and we're going to make some plays behind him."

Slavinsky had another big game, going 3 for 4, while Weitz was 2 for 3 and both scored two runs apiece.

Lakeland (7-11, 3-7 GNC) entered the seeding meeting on a four-game winning streak. The T-Birds hosted Medford in a doubleheader Thursday in the regular season home finale and complete the season tomorrow with a double dip at Kingsford, Mich.

Nick Sabato may be reached at nick@lakelandtimes.com or via Twitter @NickSabatoLT.