GROTON – Nicholai Arbach made sure the home-town fans didn’t have much to cheer about Friday night.
The Lake Norden-Badger pitcher was nearly unhittable in leading his team to a 4-0 victory over Groton in the final opening round game of the American Legion Class B State Baseball Tournament at Locke-Karst Field.
Arbach nearly went the distance, but was pulled with one out remaining to keep him under the 80-pitch count so he will have more innings left if needed later in the tourney. He allowed just two hits, struck out seven and did not walk a batter.
“Nicholai is a great pitcher,” said Lake Norden-Badger coach Brad Noem. “With his size and that arm angle with the pop he gets and that off speed he has, he’s tough.”
Arbach has a lethal curveball and was able to throw early and often to keep the Groton batters off stride.
“Whether it started inside and went out, they couldn’t touch it,” Arbach said. “They had the two hits early, but after that they didn’t do anything.”
The fact that Arbach could throw that pitch for consistent strikes early in the count was a huge factor in the contest.
“Give credit where credit is due,” said Groton coach Matt Locke. “The kid pitched well. He mixed up speeds well. He got us off balance.”
Cameron Thue belted a home run over the leftfield fence in the second inning and that proved to be the only run Arbach would need. LN-B eventually tacked on a few more runs, but could never really break the game open.
“Obviously, the sticks weren’t there tonight,” Noem said. “Groton’s pitchers did a heckuva job, but our kids battled and with Nicholai on the mound, you get a run or two and you feel pretty comfortable with him.”
Not only that, but Lake Norden-Badger played flawlessly behind him, not committing an error. Centerfielder Luke Steffensen also produced a sparkling diving catch in the top of the sixth.
Arbach said he just pitched and let his teammates make the plays.
“Just basically trusted my guys out there to make the plays. Luke did a great job in centerfield,” Arbach said. “They just had a lot of amazing plays out there.”
Strong pitching is nothing new for Lake Norden-Badger, which has now allowed just one earned run in its last 29 innings of play.
Noem is confident in who will be taking the mound in the next couple of days.
“We’ve got a 1-2-3 punch that I think are about as good as anybody has,” he said.
Jackson Noem finished with two hits and drove in two runs to lead Lake Norden-Badger.
Groton will take on Winner-Colome in an elimination contest in today’s second game. Locke knows what is at stake.
“It’s matter of putting all three phases together: pitching, hitting and defense,” he said. “Now, it’s just survive and advance, survive and advance.”
Lake Norden-Badger meets Madison in the final game this evening. The two split a pair of games this season.
“We feel good about where we’re at,” Coach Noem said. “Our whole mantra this weekend is to enjoy the moment.”
Groton 000 000 0 – 0 2 2
Lake Norden-Badger 010 012 x – 4 8 0
Peyton Johnson, Alex Morris (5), Chandler Larson (6) and Cade Larson; Nicholai Arbach, Jackson Noem (7) and Christian Rodriquez. 2B – Groton, Morris. HR – Lake Norden-Badger, Cameron Thue.
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