Ashby fielding one of top Class A baseball teams in Minnesota after standout basketball season

Many of the same athletes who helped Ashby post a 19-1 record in basketball this past winter are now helping on the diamond as the fifth-ranked Arrows' baseball team is off to a 10-0 start and has done it in dominant fashion most games.

Ashby senior Jaden Norby cracks a smile as his teammates wait for him at home plate after Norby's two-run home run in the 14-4 game-two win over Brandon-Evansville on May 4, 2021. Norby reached base six times in the doubleheader and finished with three RBIs and two doubles. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

The good thing about high school sports is that when one season ends, another one usually begins quickly.

That means the ability to turn the page with another sport to look forward to for many of these athletes. The Ashby boys basketball season ended earlier than the Arrows wanted this past winter in the Section 6A playoffs, but it still was part of an historic year for that program on the way to a 19-1 record. Now many of those same athletes are in the midst of making more memories on the baseball diamond with Ashby off to a 10-0 start after sweeping a previously one-loss Brandon-Evansville team on Tuesday.

Ashby shortstop Torin Olson goes high to try to gather a throw before slapping down in an attempt to tag Brandon-Evansville's Kian Gackle at second base on May 4, 2021. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“I can tell a lot of these guys, it’s always in the back of our head. We felt that pain,” Ashby senior Jaden Norby said. “We want to make it further in the playoffs. We’re working hard every day, and I think we’re going to do that.”


The fifth-ranked Arrows won a 2-1 game against the Chargers (6-3) on Tuesday before grabbing control early in a 14-4 win in game two. Ashby got home runs from Norby, Mattson Hoff and Torin Olson in that second game. Norby had two doubles, three RBIs and reached base six times in the doubleheader, while his younger brother, junior Hunter Norby, reached base five times.

Ashby batted around in a five-run third inning that blew game two open. Evan Paulson added an RBI single in the frame around the leadoff home run from Olson and two-run shot from Hoff. Brodie Ecker had three of Ashby’s 18 total hits on the night.

Ashby second baseman Brodie Ecker throws to first baseman Jaden Norby for an out during the Arrows' sweep of a doubleheader against Brandon-Evansville on May 4, 2021. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“We have a very good lineup. Every guy can hit the ball to both sides of the field,” J. Norby said. “Another thing about this team is we have great arms, a lot of good pitchers.”

That was on display throughout the night. Hunter Norby went six innings in the 2-1 opener and scattered four walks and five hits. He limited the damage by striking out eight and allowing just a Kyle Schaffran run-scoring single in the third inning.

“Hunter didn’t have his best stuff, but I was really proud of the way he battled,” Ashby head coach Jared Larson said. “He couldn’t find the zone at times, but he stuck in there and got us out of some key situations. He came up big for us.”

Ashby junior Hunter Norby allowed just one run over six innings in a 2-1 win over Brandon-Evansville on May 4, 2021. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)


Carter Spangler was a workhorse in relief throughout the two games. He got the save in game one and then threw five innings in game two so Jaden Norby could leave after two innings and pitch again later this week with a safe lead in hand. Spangler put up zeroes until three errors led to three unearned runs for B-E in the bottom of the seventh.

“We got to support Carter a lot more than that,” J. Norby said. “I would be unhappy too when that happens. He pitched a gem up to that. He did his job in coming in and shutting them out. That just gets us going on offense. He did a really good job, and I’m happy for him.”

The Norby brothers and Spangler are three of the top pitchers on this team, and Larson is confident in the guys behind them to get the job done when that depth is needed.

Ashby's Carter Spangler looks in at his catcher during the seventh inning of the first game in a doubleheader against Brandon-Evansville on May 4, 2021. Spangler worked a scoreless final inning to get the save in a 2-1 win in that game, and then pitched five more innings in game two to help secure the 14-4 win. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“It’s going to be peaking at the right time,” Larson said of the key to this team’s playoff success. “We got to stay healthy going into the postseason and then it comes down to pitching depth, which we have. I think we have just as good a chance as anybody. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens at the end of the year here.”

Section 6A in boys basketball was as good as any section in the state. Hancock (19-6) won the section and then made it to the state championship before falling 61-60 to Hayfield.

Section 6A in baseball looks to be equally as challenging. New York Mills (8-0), Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (7-0) and Upsala-Swanville Area (9-0) join Ashby as four undefeated teams in the section after Tuesday. All four of those programs are averaging nearly double-digit runs per game and holding opponents to less than two runs a night. In the Arrows’ 10 wins, they have outscored opponents 97-12.


Ashby's Carter Spangler places the tag on Brandon-Evansville's Tyler Bitzan with Ashby pitcher Hunter Norby (16) backing up the play during a rundown between second and third base on May 4, 2021. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“One thing about this group is we love to compete,” J. Norby said. “Seeing those other teams that keep winning, that keeps us working hard. It keeps us honest, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Ashby gets West Central Area (2-4), the school that beat the Arrows in the section quarterfinals in basketball, in a doubleheader at home on Thursday. This is a hungry group of players for the Arrows who are enjoying being together in the midst of another winning season.

“They’ve done a really good job all the way up,” Larson said. “Even at a younger age when they were 14-years old and a couple of 15-year olds, they won that Babe Ruth state tournament. I think they have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder with something to prove after basketball.”

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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