The Northland Pines baseball team is playing their best at the right time of the season.

After cleaning up in Crandon last Friday with a 14-2 win, the Eagles secured a fourth-place finish in the conference standings as they swept their area rival Lakeland in a Tuesday/Friday double-header, winning first at home 8-5 and then coming from behind to win at Lakeland this past Friday, 9-7.

“The amount of improvement from the first day of contact days until this week was really impressive,” coach Peter Aerts said after the game Friday. “It’s taken a lot of commitment from this team from then until now to get to where we are. It’s definitely the right time of the season to be putting the pieces together.”

In Eagle River last Tuesday, starter Brady Beyer did well after a shaky first inning and after allowing one run in the first, went through four and turned things over to Frank Milanowski with a 4-1 lead.

Pines answered the solo run in the top of the first for Lakeland, tying the game as it went into the second.

In the third inning, an error on a one-out grounder put Nolan Lurvey aboard. Ty Springer followed with a base hit to put two on before a Mitch McCanles ball in play was booted by the T-Birds, scoring Lurvey and advancing runners to second and third.

Back-to-back wild pitches from Will Fortier allowed Springer and McCanles to score which made it 4-1 Eagles going into the fourth.

In his final inning of the night Beyer worked around a one-out error by getting a pair of strikeouts and a grounder to second.

Lakeland would add a single run in the sixth to make it 4-2,  but Pines responded in their half of the inning cashing in with four insurance runs to pad their lead at 8-2. Matt Vedder, Lurvey and McCanles all singled that inning to help the offense.

In the seventh, Milanowski allowed a lead-off walk and a then a run scoring double from Will Fortier before Erik Albertus singled to score Fortier and make it 8-4. Alex Fortier grounded out to second base to move his brother Will to third. Will Fortier would then score on an error to make it 8-5.

On the next pitch, with two aboard, Danny Gahler rolled a grounder to Lurvey at second base. He quickly got the force at second with Vedder waiting, then transfered and fired a ball to McCanles at first who picked it from the dirt to complete the game-ending 4-6-3 double play.

“It was a pretty slick play to end the game,” Aerts said. “Those are the types of plays that highlight a night. They executed it well and Mitch made a nice stretch and pick at first to get the final out.”

Pines had just six hits on the night with two from Lurvey and one each from Springer, McCanles, Logan Hissom and Matthew Vedder.

Beyer picked up the win, allowing just four hits, one earned run, striking out five and walking none. Pines hitters did strike out 10 times compared to seven for the T-Birds.

Win in Minocqua

Senior Mitch McCanles waited until the final Great Northern Conference (GNC) game of his high school career to pickup his first win of the season on the mound as he went five innings, allowing just two earned runs, striking out seven and walking four in a 9-7 win for Pines this past Friday over Lakeland.

On the T-Birds senior night, Pines responded mid-game as a bad inning defensively turned what was a 2-1 Pines lead into a 5-2 deficit going into the fifth.

That lead grew to 6-2 for Lakeland until the flood gates burst open for the Pines offense in the sixth.

After chasing T-Birds’ starter Zack Peterson in the  fifth, Pines got to reliever Erik Albertus in the sixth scoring seven runs on five hits, two of which were doubles. They were aided by three Lakeland errors and two walks which put the visitors on top, 9-6.

Lakeland would get a lone run in the bottom of the seventh off Lurvey who pitched the final two innings of the win to pickup the save.

He allowed just that one run on one hit while striking out one and walking one.

The win secured Pines in the fifth spot of the GNC standings at 4-8 on the conference season. They were ahead of Lakeland (3-9) and Tomahawk (0-12).

Medford won the league outright with a perfect 12-0 record followed by Rhinelander (8-4), Antigo (8-4) and Mosinee (7-5).

Pines will play a nonconference game this week against Crandon before opening the playoffs at Clintonville this Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

Pines got the fifth seed in the six-team bracket. Shawano (1) and Rhinelander (2) got first-round byes and will play the winners of Pines and Clintonville and Antigo (3) and Tomahawk (6). Those Regional semifinals will take place Tuesday, June 15 with the Regional final the day after.