Ironmen return to the diamond

Ironmen return to the diamond Back in action for first time in a month, VCC splits with Mesabi

The Vermilion Ironmen’s record will show one victory Wednesday at Minnetonka, but all in all it can be argued the community college baseball team won twice that day.
Vermilion and Mesabi split a doubleheader on the artificial turf at Minnetonka’s Veterans Field,but the Ironmen may have picked up a victory just by getting out on to the field.
Vermilion dropped the opener 8-7 but bounced back and won the nightcap 8-3 behind the pitching of freshman Connor Knettel.
The contests were VCC’s first in a month and came after eight games were postponed in the previous two weeks.
Vermilion and Mesabi were set to open Northern Division play this weekend in Ely and Virginia, but the games were moved to Duluth and Superior, and later Iowa, and ultimately scrapped because of poor field conditions and anticipated wintry weather.
The Ironmen and Norsemen scrambled and found an opening in Minnetonka, and at least got the first half of their four-game set in the books.
“Just to play was a win in itself,” said Vermilion Head Coach Tom Coombe. “Every college team in the state is battling to find a dry field, and we’ve been looking at going to Iowa for two weekends in a row, but the weather hasn’t cooperated. We jumped at the chance to play in Minnetonka and our guys were happy to get back on a field.”
The action came after a month hiatus since the Ironmen’s season-opening trip to Florida, and overall the team has had 11 weeks of indoor practice.
Vermilion (2-7) nearly came up with a sweep against the Norse, but a late-inning meltdown combined with a lack of timely hitting proved costly in the opening game defeat.
The Ironmen left 12 runners on base in the opener, and stranded the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second in the top of the seventh.
Vermilion shook off that disappointment with a solid effort in the second game.
Knettel, a Brainerd graduate, went the distance on a complete-game seven-hitter. He walked only three batters.
“Connor really came through with a heck of a game on the mound,” said Coombe. “We thought about pulling him in the fourth and fifth, but he got stronger and battled through it.”
Vermilion broke a three-all deadlock and plated five runs in the top of the sixth.
Clayton Gallus singled in the hole to bring in Justin Janikowski with the winning run, and the Ironmen pounced with several more key hits.
Lukas Adelman, who finished with three hits, lined a run-scoring single while Jacob Johnson followed with a ground-rule double that drove in another run. Ryan Duffy’s two-run triple closed the barrage.
Duffy finished with two hits for the winners, as did Janikowski and Gallus.
Vermilion blew a 4-1 lead in the first game, as Mesabi rallied with five runs in the bottom of the fifth. The Norsemen (2-7) added two key insurance runs in the sixth then held off VCC in the seventh.
Durbin, the starting and losing pitcher, had a two-run single for VCC while Gallus reached base five times and had two hits.
Kyle Hintz had two hits and a pair of runs scored for the Ironmen.
Vermilion will continue Northern Division play this Wednesday with another double-dip with Mesabi at a site yet to be determined.
Proctor, Silver Bay and Superior are all potential locations for the matchup, and the Ironmen hope to also get in non-conference tilts with Fergus Falls and Wisconsin-Barron County during the weekend of April 20-22.