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Prep baseball: Northwood/Solon Springs hammers Washburn in regional final

The Green Eagles scored 12 runs in the first two innings to advance to the sectional semifinal Tuesday.

Northwood/Solon Springs’ Abe Ahlberg (21) watches his pitch zoom towards home plate
Northwood/Solon Springs’ Abe Ahlberg (21) watches his pitch zoom towards home plate in the second inning of the Green Eagles’ playoff win over Washburn in Minong on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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MINONG — It only took four and a half innings for the relaxing sound of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” to hit the speakers Wednesday.

Northwood/Solon Springs had just pounded its way into the sectional semifinals with a five-inning, 15-2 win over Washburn and the Green Eagles played McFerrin’s 1988 hit to celebrate.

It’s not exactly a tradition yet — the team first played the song Tuesday after a 12-2 regional semifinal win over Drummond — but pitcher Abe Ahlberg isn’t opposed to it becoming one.

Northwood/Solon Springs head coach Nate Ahlberg (22) hands the regional championship plaque over to his Green Eagles team
Northwood/Solon Springs head coach Nate Ahlberg (22) hands the regional championship plaque over to his Green Eagles team after their 15-2 victory over Washburn in Minong on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“That started yesterday, but I’m liking it — it’s good,” he said.

In four innings, Ahlberg allowed two hits and walked one batter while striking out 11. In fact, the NSS defense only had to make one play in the field for an out while Ahlberg was pitching.

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“I was able to mix up my pitches and keep blowing my fastball by them,” Ahlberg said. “It they’re not able to hit it, then keep it rolling. I had a good day at school and was feeling good all day … That was my second regional final game. I was feeling confident and just had to go out and do the job.

Northwood/Solon Springs’ Abe Ahlberg (21) fires a pitch
Northwood/Solon Springs’ Abe Ahlberg (21) fires a pitch in the fourth inning of the Green Eagles’ playoff win over Washburn in Minong on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The Green Eagles scored 12 runs in the first two innings and never really let the Castle Guards get anything going until the top of the fifth when Colby Latvala came on and allowed two runs before getting the third out and finishing the game.

NSS came out of the gate slowly against Drummond and coach Nate Ahlberg was pleased there wasn’t a repeat performance Wednesday.

“We just didn’t quite have that energy,” he said. “It took back-to-back home runs for us to get fired up and then we rolled from there. My focus tonight was to get up and get going early and we certainly did that … We batted around in the first and then we go to the second and the first two guys get out and I was like ‘We let off the gas.’ But then we had a couple of hits, a couple of miscues and, you know what? It’s 12-0 after the second. I was glad that we kept the pressure and we kept our attitude up.”

Four Green Eagles had two RBIs in the game, including Dylan Taggart, Colby Latvala, Gage Blaylock and Jared Schultz.

Northwood/Solon Springs’ Gage Blaylock (12) connects with the ball
Northwood/Solon Springs’ Gage Blaylock (12) connects with the ball during the first inning of the Green Eagles’ playoff win over Washburn in Minong on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

NSS advances to play Siren in the sectional semifinal at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Shell Lake. The Dragons advanced with a 9-1 win over Webster Wednesday.

NSS bowed out of the sectional tournament last season after a loss to Webster and the team is determined to advance to the sectional final. Ahlberg knows the Green Eagle pitchers need to be sharp.

“Whoever is on the mound, we’ve got to count on him to throw strikes,” Ahlberg said. “I have no idea what Siren’s got, but they’re obviously pretty good.”

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The team’s sophomore pitchers have combined for four no-hitters and haven’t allowed more than six runs in any game so far this year.

Coach Ahlberg said over the next few days at practice, the team needs to work on catching up to the velocity the team will be seeing in the sectional and state tournaments.

“We need to work on seeing some more velocity because that’s been the thing that we have struggled with,” Coach Ahlberg said. “We’ve struggled with guys that either throw a little slow — which we saw a little bit of that tonight — and then we just don’t see a lot of guys that throw in the mid-80s. We know that we’re going to see some of that as we continue to go and so that’s going to be our job, to break my arm here the next couple days and gas it up.”

Northwood/Solon Springs’ Thomas Jarrell (6) kicks up a bunch of dirt as he slides safely into third base
Northwood/Solon Springs’ Thomas Jarrell (6) kicks up a bunch of dirt as he slides safely into third base in the third inning of the Green Eagles’ playoff win over Washburn in Minong on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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