Sweep sends VCC on to division play

The Vermilion Ironmen gathered further momentum as they embark on a 20-game sprint that will determine the fate of their season
A Saturday sweep of division rival Mesabi allowed the community college baseball team to bring its record to the .500 mark, at 8-8 overall, as Northern Division play opens this weekend.
Vermilion downed Mesabi 8-7 and 10-7 at Aurora in what served as a tune-up before today’s division opener against Rainy River.
The Ironmen have won five of their last seven games and their offense has revved up after a slow start.
During the hot streak, VCC has raised its team batting average by nearly 50 points, with outfielder Cameron Peterson leading the way.
Peterson collected five hits and scored five runs during the twinbill on the artificial turf and raised his average to a team-best .458.
Catcher Graham Porter had three hits and three runs batted in during the opening game win and is second only to Peterson with a .429 average.
The Ironmen will likely need to be hot at the plate in their four game set with Rainy River, which won the division a year ago and is hitting over .350 as a team.
“We will need to be able to score some runs to keep up with Rainy,” said head coach Tom Coombe. “We had a crazy series with them last year when they hit over a dozen home runs and they’re capable of scoring double digits in all four games.”
Vermilion is hoping to get off to a strong start against Rainy River (7-13) as it begins a 20-game division slate.
The top-three teams in the six-team circuit move on to regional play in mid-May at St. Cloud.
“Our goal is to get back to the regional tournament,” said Coombe. “And to do that we’ll need to be consistent in division games and stay out of slumps. Each game stands on its own and we can’t get too up or too down over any one game.”
Vermilion traded punches with Mesabi on Saturday, leading 5-2 and 7-5 only to see the Norse rally and force extra innings.
The Ironmen seized momentum back in the top of the eighth, with Terren Sugita doubling to the fence and Dalton Cantrell lining a run-scoring single to break a seven-all deadlock.
Zach Cheney, a North Woods graduate, worked out of trouble in the bottom of the inning and stranded two runners to get his first collegiate pitching win.
Cheney worked three innings in place of starter Dillon Eden, who fanned five batters in five innings of work. Freshman outfielder Braden Hardy went three-for four for the winners, while both Sugita and Peterson had two hits.
VCC couldn’t get Mesabi’s Dawson Tweet out. The Norse’s star second baseman had a two-run homer and finished three-for-three with three RBI.
In the nightcap, Vermilion exploded with nine runs in the bottom of the fifth, turning a 3-1 deficit into a 10-3 lead.
Freshman third baseman Charlie Wonser had two run-scoring doubles during the frame. Cheney, Peterson, Michael Feralio and Jovann Hamlin-Arana all had run-scoring hits during an inning in which VCC sent 13 batters to the plate.
Jacob Worley earned the pitching victory, going six innings and allowing three earned runs while scattering eight hits. Drew Birko tossed a scoreless seventh.
Vermilion was set to tangle with Rainy River today at Aurora, while the four-game set moves to Duluth’s Wade Stadium on Monday.
Next up is a division date with Hibbing on Wednesday, and four games the weekend of April 23-24 with division favorite Itasca, including an April 24 twinbill at Ely’s Veterans Memorial Field.