North Polars calm Mahtomedi Zephyrs for crucial Metro East win

Lauzon hurls 7-inning, 2-hit shutout

Before a standing-room-only crowd at Kuenkel Field, the North High Polars battled with baseball powerhouse Mahtomedi on Wednesday, May 13.

The game had special significance because of the Metro East Conference standings. Heading into the game North was 12-2 in the MEC, while Mahtomedi had a mark of 13-1. 

Both teams had one MEC game remaining on their schedules.

On the mound for the Zephyrs was their ace, Sean Hjelle, and throwing for the Polars was their No. 1 hurler, Zach Lauzon. Both pitchers went the full seven innings.

Hjelle gave up five hits — one double — issued three walks and had eight strikeouts.

Lauzon issued two walks, allowed the Zephyrs two hits - an infield single behind second base in the sixth and a blooper in the seventh into right field - and struck out eight to lead his team to a 4-0 win.  

Lauzon said, "We got those first-inning runs and that proved the difference in the game. I had my curve ball working well and was able to get that over [the plate] for strikes.

"That kind of set them up and kept them off balance. Then, my teammates behind me played great defense. It was a fun game for all of us."

At-'em balls hurt

Mahtomedi head coach John Hardgrove alluded to the curve ball giving his players trouble when he said, "Their kid threw really well. He was getting his breaking ball over for strikes.

"They got a bunch [of runs] early, and then we settled down." But, Hardgrove noted, his team "never recovered" from the first-inning deficit.

"We made [Lauzon] look good on a couple of plays. We hit the ball hard a few times, but it was right at somebody.

"Then those two double plays took us out of any chances. All in all, it was a good game."

North coach Ron Adams said, "It was a big win for us. It was two pitchers going at it, and our defense came through for us. We had those two big double plays.

"It was a good win for us. It was important, because now we have a chance at the conference championship."

The Polars victory evened the score with the Zephyrs, who won a 3-2, eight-inning game in their first meeting of the season at Mahtomedi April 22.

The May 13 contest was decided in the bottom of the first inning when North picked up its four runs.

Jake Steckler led off with a walk. He went to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on Jim Bothwell's single to left. Brandon Herold slashed a solid shot to right to score Steckler.

Dylan Foote stepped in and launched a gapper into left center field for a double that plated Bothwell. Dan Salinas went in to run for the catcher Foote. A wild pitch allowed Bothwell to score and moved Salinas to third. Two outs later, designated hitter Gus Varland walked. A double steal was executed to perfection and when Salinas was safe at the plate, North had the 4-0 lead it would hold to game's end.

Wally Wakefield can be reached at or at 651-748-7820.

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