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Silver Bay Baseball Swings into Sensational Season Success

Ward Wallin, coach of the Silver Bay Mar­iner’s baseball team, had a lucky fishing opener. When we spoke, he was going to be frying up some surf, having caught walleye and northern pike. I was going to be eating turf. The two northern I caught were pretty puny and our walleye got away when I was too slow with the net. Ward called that a pi­lot’s error. As I was fielding for my mom, whose line the walleye had grabbed, I guess you could also call that a fielder’s error!

It was nice to con­nect with the Mari­ner’s coach. He re­membered I’m not a baseball-ologist and paused to ensure I was following along in the kindest and most pa­tient way. He told me during our interview that he always says that he teaches life les­sons and that baseball is a byproduct. The coach is teaching me a lot, too.

One thing we talked about was the differences between the conferences within the Polar League. Silver Bay is a Single A school, while AA schools include neighbors like Two Harbors, Barnum, and Esko. In previous articles, I was pulling information from a site that wasn’t translating to me clearly. Ward was able to make it make more sense and pointed me to Minnesota-scores.net, which is updated frequently and provides conference, section, and statewide standings.

That said, though I had reported that Sil­ver Bay was having a sensational season, they were doing even better than I thought. The day before we spoke, the team had headed to Moun­tain-Iron Buhl to play a conference game. At that time, they were ranked 9th in the state.

“It’s been a long time since Silver Bay was in the top 10,” said Ward. The team is 11-2 at the time of this writing and really ex­celling on the field.

“We’ve been hav­ing a fabulous season, except maybe last night when we didn’t play very well,” said Ward, referring to the Mountain Iron-Buhl non-conference game in which Silver Bay lost 11-7. “We lost a game we shouldn’t have, but we’re really kind of rolling right now.”

Rolling is right. Just last week, they won against McGregor 16- 3, beat South Ridge 8-7, and also had a win against Two Harbors with a score of 25-8 (see article on next page).

A large part of the team’s success is their 5 seniors, who serve as leaders and mentors to their younger team­mates. “You expect on any sports team, you need your seniors to lead on the field and in the classroom,” Ward told me. “Even on the stat sheet.”

There is no trouble there this season. 4 out of the 5 seniors are top hitters and 3 are the stron­gest pitchers. Andrew Wehrman is the top hitter on the team, hitting .439. He’s fol­lowed closely by Jake Stadler, who is hitting .413. Jacob Carpenter is hitting .389 and the 4th top hitter is Tuck­er Cook who is hitting .382. Cook also leads the team in RBIs.

Carpenter leads the team with 10 stolen bases in the last 13 games. Last season, I quoted Ward as say­ing, “Jacob Carpenter is the fastest guy in all of baseball.” I guess he didn’t lose any of his speed over the off-sea­son!

Stadler’s pitching re­cord is 5-1 and he has a low ERA of 1.80. Braylon Hoff, also a senior, is 4 and 0 and has an ERA of 3.34. In addition to these im­pressive stats, 3 play­ers have hit home runs this season.

“We’re a really good hitting team. We’re hitting over .300 as a team, which is a really good stat line,” Ward said. “We have really strong pitching.”

The previous week, the team had won 3 conference games and knocked off the #2 team in the state, South Ridge. Accord­ing to the coach, they were heavy favorites making it a huge win for the Mariners, who beat the Panthers in the 8th inning.

“We’re really busy and we’re fine-tuning, gearing up for a play­off run,” said Ward, who spoke to the team’s improvement in defense, and he hopes to have it tightened up going into the section tournament.

One of the strengths of the team is that they all get along and want to play together. “We really have good team chemistry. The kids like each other,” confirmed their coach. “This group has hearts like I haven’t seen in years. I absolutely love coaching these kids.”

That said, he admit­ted to me that he’s not the easiest coach to play for. (He also gave me the go-ahead to put that admission in print.) “I’m tough on the kids but this group of kids have heart and drive. Right now we’re turning that into mo­mentum. We’re really having fun.”

The team will be taking on Barnum and will participate in a tournament in Ely be­fore this article goes into print. Before I submitted this story, the coach reached out to let me know the loss to Mountain Iron-Buhl knocked them out of the top 10. But 11th in the state doesn’t sound shabby at all to me!

Congrats to the Mar­iners players and good luck in your upcoming games!

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