Ironmen upset division champs in season finale

by Tom Coombe

For the Vermilion Ironmen, a difficult season ended on a positive note.<BR><BR>Sophomore pitcher Joel Reed led the community college baseball team to a 10-4 victory over Northern Division champion in the May 1 season finale, firing a four-hitter and fanning 10 batters.<BR><BR>The win was one of just five this spring for the Ironmen, who finished 5-19 in division play and 5-27 overall.<BR><BR>But if there was a silver lining for VCC, it was their play over the last 10 days of the regular season.<BR><BR>In addition to the win over Itasca, Vermilion swept a doubleheader against Northland and had close losses to Fergus Falls and Mesabi, the second and third-place teams in the division.<BR><BR>“I thought we started to play better at the end,” said Vermilion Head Coach Ray Podominick. “Ever since the second game against Itasca (a 2-1 loss at midseason), we’ve been in some good ballgames.”<BR><BR>The Ironmen struggled at the plate all spring, hitting just .250 as a team with just six home runs, compared to 32 round-trippers a year ago.<BR><BR>The win over Itasca, in which the Ironmen had 10 hits, was just the second time in conference play that they scored more than four runs.<BR><BR>Chris Hoth got things going right away, smashing a two-run double in the first to get the Ironmen on the board.<BR><BR>Vermilion kept up the pressure, building a 7-0 lead and cruising to the win.<BR><BR>Craig Lemmen and Joe Raiten added two hits each for VCC, and Reed allowed the Vikings few scoring opportunites.<BR><BR>In the opener, Itasca clinched the Northern Division crown with a 6-0 win.<BR><BR>The Vikings scored twice in the first, third and fourth frames against losing pitcher Brandon Stahl. Raiten tossed two innings of scoreless relief for the Ironmen, who were held to four hits.<BR><BR>The day before, Mesabi swept the Ironmen 3-2 and 5-1 in a twinbill at Virginia.<BR><BR>Babbitt-Embarrass graduate Joe Rabbers escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam to record the save in the seventh for the Norsemen.<BR><BR>Earlier, Mesabi put runs across in the first, second and fourth innings.<BR><BR>Vermilion got one in the fourth when Josh Bullivant drove home a run. Hoth singled and scored on a Lemmen single in the sixth.<BR><BR>Eric Niebuhr suffered the tough-luck loss for Vermilion, yielding only three hits and striking out six.<BR><BR>Tony Bergman had a good game on the mound in the nightcap. He allowed just four hits and struck out eight, but Mesabi scored three times in the first to take control of the game.<BR><BR>Vermilion’s only run came in the seventh, on a single by Duane Mattson.<BR><BR>Kyle Rowbottom held Vermilion to five hits.<BR><BR>