Baseball: Norway beats Gogebic, advances to regional final

Plays Indian River Inland Lakes on Saturday for regional championship

Norway’s Kody Hendricks delivers a pitch to home plate during the Gogebic-Norway regional semifinal game played in Ironwood on Wednesday. (Pat Krause/The (Ironwood) Daily Globe)

IRONWOOD — One inning. In a regional semifinal game.

Both coaching staffs from Gogebic and Norway agreed that one bad inning dashed any hopes the Miners had of winning their first Division 4 regional championship.

After Gogebic’s poor first inning, the game was evenly played but Norway won 6-2 at Lorenson Field on Wednesday afternoon.

“It was a bad way to start a game,” Gogebic assistant coach Alex Metas said. “It was walk, hit, walk, hit, out and an error where two runs scored. We thought we could play with them, but you can’t let yourself get down by four runs in the first inning, because Norway is a very good team that is ranked 16th in the state and is now the only UP Division 4 team left in the tournament. And you’re trying to come back against a very good pitcher and good fielders. You wish you could just start the game over but you can’t.

“We knew Norway was probably the best team in the regional because their pitching is really good, but we’re a better hitting team. We thought if we could win today, we could win on Saturday and win the regional.”

The Knights (24-4-1) faces Indian River Inland Lakes at 10 a.m. EDT Saturday in East Jordan. Indian River Inland Lakes beat Pickford 8-2.

Gaylord St. Mary plays Johannesburg-Lewiston in the other regional final at 12:30 p.m. The Norway-Indian River Inland Lakes winner faces the Gaylord St. Mary-Johannesburg-Lewiston winner for the super regional title at 3 p.m.

Gaylord St. Mary beat Central Lake 9-0. Johannesburg-Lewiston beat Maple City Glen lake 5-3.

The super regional winner advances to the state semifinals on Friday, June 14 with the state championship game on June 15.

Norway coach Randy Van Gasse agreed with Metas’ “bad inning” assessment of the game.

“The kids had a long ride, but once they got off the bus, they got after it,” Van Gasse said. “Those four runs gave us a nice cushion. And then we got solid pitching and timely hitting. But these games are always a challenge. I had to bring my closer in at the end, which I didn’t want to do.”

Meanwhile, Norway pitcher Kody Hendricks was dealing. After Gogebic’s Cade Mazzon opened the game by grounding out, Hendricks whiffed the next six Miners he faced and would finish with 10 strikeouts. He didn’t walk a batter in five innings of work. He gave up one run on three hits and now has a 6-0 record this year.

“My curveball and high fastball were working good today,” Hendricks said. “And I knew the team had my back with their bats.”

Metas said he thought Hendricks was the best pitcher the Miners have faced this year.

In the third inning, it began to look as if Gogebic was going to climb back into the game. Joey Rocco blasted a long double over the right fielder’s head that just kept going and going and almost looked like it was going out. Jack Matrella came into run for Rocco. Ethan Libertoski’s sacrifice bunt moved Matrella over to third base and then Mazzon’s single to right field plated Matrella.

Down 4-1, Peyton Solberg’s base hit put two runners on base, but Hendricks got out of the jam by retiring the next two Gogebic batters.

After the first inning, Solberg pitched well the next three innings and only gave up one run and three hits until Anthony Metas relieved him at the start of the fifth inning. He also gave up one run in three innings of work.

Hendricks threw 69 pitches by the fifth inning, so Van Gasse took him out with the chance to pitch Saturday against Indian River Inland Lakes in East Jordan. Gannon Bray took to the mound in the sixth inning and had a 1-2-3 inning, but Gogebic threatened in the seventh inning.

Riley Wroblewski singled over second base and came around to score on three wild pitches to make it 6-2. Tyler Busch walked and Van Gasse brought in his closer, Trey Doda.

“I had seen enough pitches go to the backstop,” Van Gasse said.

Doda got three quick outs and Gogebic’s dream of a regional championship was over.

The Miners got only four hits in the game from Mazzon, Solberg, Wroblewski and Rocco.

Payton Thompson led the Knights offensive attack going 2 for 3 with 3 RBI’s.

Gogebic ended its season with a third straight district championship, it’s second straight conference title and an impressive 14-3 record in 2019.

Metas said it all went back to the players on the team.

“We hate to see the five seniors go,” Metas said. “Four of the five seniors played on all three of our district championships. Best of luck to them in the future. We’re very proud of all the guys on our team, because of all they accomplished this year. The team played very well. But we’re also looking forward to next year because we got our two best pitchers coming back (Solberg and Metas) and a lot of other good players.”

Gogebic 001 000 1 — 2 4 2

Norway 400 110 x — 6 7 1