After successful football, basketball seasons, L/E/M baseball is beginning to catch fire early on
Similar to how a 3-pete by the Cardinals gridiron squad was sparked, L/E/M's last outing of the NDHSAA baseball season ended in disappointment. Knocking on the door of a state tournament, the Cardinals would meet Park River in the 2019 Region 4 final.
After edging out the Aggies 12-10 two days prior in regional semifinals, the tables turned on Cardinals, seeing Park River defeat L/E/M for a region crown and ending the Cardinals season. L/E/M was able to fit in two seasons of legion ball in the summer, but they would not wear the Cardinal crest again until this spring.
Now, after a season off and two successful seasons around the diamond, Langdon/Edmore/Munich baseball is starting into a familiar and comfortable rhythm opening up the 2021 season. A little under halfway into their schedule, the Cardinals have put together an 8-0 record, outscoring their opposition 81-12.
"In 2019, we had our shot at the end, but we just came up short to Park River," Cardinals head coach Josh Krivarchka said. "We knew we would have a good team coming in, but in it is a short season, you want to make sure you're playing well at all times. You want to make sure you're playing your best by tournament time and that's what we're trying to do."
L/E/M continued to elevate its game against Grafton on Monday, responding to a 2-0 deficit in the first inning by a slow-burning effort on offense, eventually leading the Cardinals bats to ignite late. Another balanced performance by the Cardinals, headed by senior pitcher Grant Romfo would see L/E/M blast past Grafton for a key 7-2 regional win.
Players and coaches knew heading into the game that it was going to be a battle on the mound. It was going to be about who was going to be able to hike up the pitch count first. The score remained close for five innings, but L/E/M managed to load up the count whenever they were on base. Meanwhile, Romfo would either go down the order or those behind him would do it for him off of any Grafton connection.
By the sixth inning, Grafton had relived senior pitcher Andrew Votava, as he had reached his max and the flood gates opened for L/E/M with a two-run lead.
"We knew that us and Grafton were near the top of the region, and it was going to be a big game," Krivarchka said. "They threw one of their studs on the mound and we thew one of ours, and it was a good baseball game. Both teams made the other pitchers work. After the first inning, Grant really settled down and threw a nice game for us."
The first inning was looking like it was going to be a very different game for the Cardinals, specifically Romfo on the mound. On his first pitch, Grafton sophomore Chance Burns would single to center field. Right after that, senior outfielder Riley Eide would hit a bomb over the center-field wall to score two for a 2-0 lead. However, after that inning, Romfo wouldn't be serving up anything for the Spoilers.
The senior would strike out eight on the day, pitching a shutout through six straight innings. In addition to his performance on the mound, Romfo would convert at the plate picking up a pair of hits, advancing off a wild pitch, and scoring twice for L/E/M.
"He's one of our leaders and he's been through it," Krivarchka said. "He didn't get to play last year because of COVID, but he's a stud for us and we expect that out of him."
While Romfo did spark a lot of the offense for L/E/M, the Cardinals continued to deliver a balanced and deep attack that allowed them to run Grafton's "stud" off the plate. Sophomore first baseman Jack Romfo would double to score his cousins Grant and senior infielder Simon Romfo to tie the game for the Cardinals.
After Grafton would fail to respond, Grant would slam a long double to the center-field wall to score sophomore outfielder Gage Goodman for what would be the game-winning run in the second inning. A flyout in the fourth inning by Grant would score Goodman again. From there, the Cardinals ran up the count in order to get the edge on the mound.
"At the plate, we were really good battling and making their pitcher work," Krivarchka said. "We got him out there in the sixth. His pitch count was up and we really worked him, which is a credit to our kids in the batter's box."
Krivarchka said that after the pitching change in the sixth inning, the pressure came off a bit for his squad, seeing them score three more in the sixth alone. Monday's finish was the Cardinals' eighth straight game where they have outscored their opponent by five runs or more. Despite the margin of victory, Grafton's pitching did challenge L/E/M as this was only the second game this season where the Cardinals didn't break into double figures in runs.
A lot of what L/E/M is digging into can be rooted back to what they were doing on the hardwood and a few hundred feet away on the football: winning breeding winning. A little over a month ago, the Cardinals were playing in their first regional championship basketball game in three years, and four months before that they had won their third straight Class A football state title, with Krivarchka at the helm.
L/E/M's core, with Grant and Simon sitting at the heart of it, has moved from sport to sport this year and has rejuvenated that success. Now on the diamond, the Cardinals are looking to speed up their growth in a short season to get back to a state tournament.
"Obviously the end goal is to reach the state tournament and put yourself in a good position to get there, but the biggest thing is just to be playing our best when it becomes region tournament time," Krivarchka said. "We want to take this momentum into practice tomorrow and we have a few things we want to work on there. We play Midway/Minto on Thursday and we just want to keep progressing every game."