Northland Pines shortstop Nolan Lurvey goes up to catch a ball from catcher Ty Springer as a Medford base runner slides in safely during Friday’s 3-0 loss to the Raiders. Also pictured is second baseman Mitch McCanles. —Staff Photos By DOUG ETTEN
Northland Pines shortstop Nolan Lurvey goes up to catch a ball from catcher Ty Springer as a Medford base runner slides in safely during Friday’s 3-0 loss to the Raiders. Also pictured is second baseman Mitch McCanles. —Staff Photos By DOUG ETTEN
The hits were hard to come by in the first week of competition for the Northland Pines baseball team as they dropped a pair of Great Northern Conference (GNC) contests with Medford to open the season.

On the road in Medford last Tuesday, Pines faced Raiders ace Caleb Guden who used eight strikeouts and 69 total pitches with some solid defense behind him to work a no-hitter in what was a 10-0 win over Pines.

“He did a good job of keeping us off balance,” Pines head coach Peter Aerts said of Guden. “He’s probably one of the best pitchers we’ll see all season, and to see him in the first game back in almost two years for most guys was tough.”

The Raiders took advantage of a couple of miscues from the Pines defense as the home team built a 6-0 lead through the first three innings.

Though Pines starter Mitch McCanles threw well, allowing five hits and three earned runs, the offense and defense didn’t support his outing, leading to the lopsided opening game loss.

“Our offense still needs some work, but I?was impressed with the way we pitched. That was encouraging,” Aerts said. “Especially in our second game last week, I thought our at bats got significantly better throughout the game, which is something we can build off of going into this week.”

Following the 10-0 loss in Medford, Pines hosted the Raiders Friday, and fell 3-0 in a much more closely contested game.

“We almost pushed their starter Alexander to 100 pitches, which is what you want to do,” Aerts said. “Our offense is still searching for a breakout though. But when you go from not seeing any pitching for two years to seeing some of the best pitching in Division 2, it’s tough.”

Matt Vedder got the start on the mound last Friday and threw well, as did Brady Beyer and Nolan Lurvey in relief.

Vedder got through the first four innings, scattering four hits while allowing one run?(earned), and issuing two walks while striking out a pair.

“Those three really showed the depth of our pitching staff,” Aerts said. “We continue to improve our approach offensively. And our communication is key. That’s something always that we stress, and can continue to get better and better.”

Medford scraped a run off Beyer in the fifth to go up 2-0, and then got another unearned run in the sixth with Lurvey on the hill.

Pines had an opportunity in the bottom of the sixth as Isaac Vedder earned a one-out walk followed by a single from Matt Vedder to put two aboard with one away.

Logan Hissom would pop-out to third, which was followed by another infield fly from Ty Springer to end the threat.

The same happened in the bottom of the seventh as Matt Szafranski walked to open the inning. After a strikeout he moved to second on a single to right from Jack Bunter. Alexander settled back in, striking out the next two batters to earn the complete-game win.

Bunter was on base three times for Pines, earning a walk to go along with two singles.

Pines will play Mosinee twice this week, beginning Tuesday when the Indians come to Eagle River for a 5 p.m. game. They’ll then hit the road Thursday to face Mosinee on their home field.

Mosinee was the odd man out in GNC contests in the opening week, facing Marshfield which topped the Indians 4-0.

Rhinelander, Antigo and Medford all opened with sweeps and sit atop the league standings with 2-0 marks.

Season preview

Aerts stressed the importance of the early season in getting his players back up to speed after missing competition last spring. He also said without that year to play, it’s anyone’s guess who will come through it in the best shape.

“It is hard to make predictions when we didn’t have a season last year,” he said. “I do know that Mitch McCanles threw well for us as a sophomore on varsity, and we anticipate him giving us a chance to win every day he takes the mound.

“Logan Hissom started in the outfield for us as a sophomore and adds a good power and speed combination in the middle of our lineup. We are adding a lot of athletic players to those two returners which will make it an exciting year to see who steps up.”

Aerts said the team is blessed with  a number of players who for the first few weeks will be competing for spots.

“We are going to give opportunities throughout the first couple of weeks to see what guys can do,” he said.

Aerts said the GNC is extremely talented and deep with multiple teams with their eyes on trying to get to State.

“It will be challenging every night in conference games, which will really make us better,” he said. “Our team has a good balance of young and experienced players which will help us improve a lot throughout the season.”

With 31 players out for baseball this year, Aerts said it is a testament to the development of the program and the great work Josh Tilley, Jim Beyer and the rest of the volunteers in the youth program have done for years.

“Mostly I am excited for the young men to have an opportunity to play this year and watch them develop,” he said. “We have a good group of guys who are going to come to the field ready to enjoy the game and compete every day.”