Rangers defeat C-I, Grand Rapids, North Branch
It’s off to the section finals again for the Forest Lake baseball team after defeating Cambridge-Isanti last Thursday and Grand Rapids and North Branch on Friday. The Rangers play either Grand Rapids, North Branch or Elk River in the finals.
In the 3-0 win over Cambridge at home, Forest Lake faced a tough pitcher, sophomore Michael Thomas, throwing in the mid-high 80s.
Senior Phil Sauer recorded the shutout on the mound and drove in two runs at the plate. Senior Beau Fandel went 2-2 plus a walk and an RBI to lead the Rangers on offense while seniors Dylan Dresel and Jack Schmidt both reached base on balls twice.
“They had a kid who threw very strong and very well,” head coach Tal Gravelle said. “But we got a great start out of Phil and I think it’s safe to say we really relied on our pitching and defense. That was the difference for us in that win.”
Forest Lake braved less-than-ideal weather in Grand Rapids on Saturday morning while taking on the third-seeded Thunderhawks and winning 6-1. Grand Rapids knocked off the Rangers in the section finals last year.
Sauer, senior Kyle Parker and junior Brett Gravelle all had two-out hits in the first inning to contribute to a four-run scoring streak to set the tone early on. Dresel led the offense by going 2-3 with one run, followed by Parker who went 2-4 with two RBIs and one run. Sauer also went 2-4 with one run.
Parker earned the complete game win, giving up just two hits and one unearned run. Parker is now 5-0 on the season.
“It was cold and rainy, but I’m proud of the way our team didn’t worry about the elements,” Tal Gravelle said. “We got a big lead in the first inning, scored more in the second and Kyle pitched fantastic in one of his best starts of the season. And again, we had very, very good defense behind him.”
Forest Lake then advanced to the semifinal afternoon game against eighth-seeded North Branch, who upset the No. 1-seed, Elk River, in the quarterfinals.
The Rangers came out swinging in the first inning again this game, going on a seven-run streak, which began on a series of walks before Dresel laced a two-out double with bases loaded to score two runs.
While North Branch answered with three runs in the second inning, Forest Lake drove in the nail in the fifth with junior Alex Egle singling to score a run followed by another scoring run in the sixth inning led in part by Brett Gravelle’s two RBIs while executing a double suicide. Parker and Egle led the offense with three hits each.
Schmidt pitched a complete game to improve his record to 3-1.
“Again, it was another quality start and a complete game for our pitcher,” Tal Gravelle said. “We’re playing fantastic baseball in all facets. These kids are playing focused and confident baseball. That’s the advantage of having a senior-led team — they don’t seem to get real nervous and have worked really hard to get to this point. It’s just fun to watch.”
Tal Gravelle hopes to reach the state tournament this year, having been an assistant coach when the Rangers earned the state trip in 2011. A section title would mark the eighth state trip in school history, including a three-year streak from 2009-2011.
Forest Lake played in the section final at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5, in Grand Rapids.