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Ironhawks experience “snowball”

Ely Echo - Staff Photo - Create Article
WHAT’S THIS? Chris Arambula (24) of Vermilion’s baseball team was in for a surprise when Thursday’s baseball game at Austin continued amid snow showers. Arambula is from Wray, CO, and is the team’s leading hitter. The Ironhawks are hoping for sunny skies this weekend in La Crosse, WI. Photo by Jake Palomo

The Vermilion Ironhawks are used to bad weather - but the last week or so has been nothing other than ridiculous for the community college baseball team.

A March 21 doubleheader at Austin ended with snow accumulating on the ground and a twinbill the following day was subsequently wiped out.

Even getting to indoor practices were a challenge this week, with a storm dumping nearly a foot of snow in town and stranding one of the Ironhawks at an off-campus apartment outside of Ely.

And though some travel is required, there’s some proverbial light at the end of the tunnel - and some sunshine ahead - for the Ironhawks.

This weekend’s four-game series with Western Wisconsin, set for La Crosse, was a go as of press time with temperatures set to approach 60 degrees nearly six hours south of Ely.

“For us, 55 or 60 might feel like 75,” said Vermilion Head Coach Tom Coombe. “The guys just want to get out and play and we were in miserable conditions last week in Austin. We finished the second game of that doubleheader, but it seemed more about taking pictures and taking in how ridiculous it was to be playing while snow was coming down.”

Riverland, which won the MCAC South Division title last year and had 35 wins, roughed up Vermilion and took both game of that double-dip: 10-0 and 9-1.

The first contest, however, was much closer than the final score might indicate.

It was 3-0 through five-and-a-half innings with Vermilion’s Jake Palomo and the Blue Devils Asahi Sato locked up in a duel.

Riverland scored three unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning, and that’s how it stayed until the sixth.

In the top of that frame, Vermilion loaded the bases with one out but came up empty. Sato, a sophomore from Japan, wiggled out of the jam and completed a four-hit shutout with seven strikeouts.

Riverland then put things way in the bottom of the sixth, scoring seven times against Palomo and reliever Parker Coach.

But Vermilion miscues played a big role with the Ironhawks committing eight errors in the game.

“We just didn’t give ourselves an opportunity,” said Coombe. “You can’t make eight errors against a team like Riverland and have a chance.”

Palomo gave up up two earned runs in five-and-one-third innings of work, and none of the runs allowed by Coach were earned.

Starting catcher Kelbee Woodham reached base all three times that he was up for Vermilion.

In the nightcap, Vermilion drew first blood as leadoff man Nick Berglund singled and was driven in by a Chris Arambula double.

Riverland bounced right back with two runs against starting pitcher Jacob Mickelson in the bottom half of the frame, and the hosts kept on scoring in the snow.

By the time the game was called in the fifth, the field was covered with the white stuff.

Vermilion (5-8) is set to take on Western Tech both Friday and Saturday, and if field conditions allow, the Ironhawks will meet Itasca in nonconference action Tuesday at Aurora.

• Northern Division play begins the weekend of April 6-7 with the Ironhawks traveling to Thief River Falls for four games against Northland.

In a preseason coaches’ poll, Vermilion is picked to finish second in the six-team Northern Division, behind only defending champion Itasca. Vermilion is followed in the poll by Rainy River, Hibbing, Northland and Mesabi.

The Ironhawks’ home opener is scheduled for Saturday, April 13 against Hibbing.

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