BASEBALL: Blackduck falls to Norman County 6-5, sets up-winner-take-all final Friday
THIEF RIVER FALLS — Norman County thwarted Blackduck’s attempt to return to the state tournament for the second straight year.
The Panthers beat the Drakes 6-5 in the first game of the Section 8A championship series Thursday afternoon at Northland Technical and Community College in Thief River Falls.
Because of the tournament’s double-elimination tournament, however, Norman County (21-4) will need to beat Blackduck (17-3) one more time.
The two teams square off again at 2 p.m. today for a final winner-takes-all elimination game, once again at NTCC in Thief River Falls. The winner advances to the Class A state tournament, which is set to begin next Thursday, June 13, at the Mini Met in Jordan.
“That’s the beauty of a double elimination tournament,” Blackduck head coach Dwight Kalvig said. “You’re allowed that one hiccup. We’re anxious to come out and set the record straight (today).”
In Thursday’s game, the teams went back-and-forth in a game that featured five lead changes and a slew of runners left on base for both teams.
Each team scored runs in the first inning but things got interesting in the second.
Norman County scored in the top half of the inning thanks to an RBI-single by JD Kappes.
The Drakes took the lead in their half of the inning when Kappes, pitching for the Panthers, hit one Blackduck batter with the bases loaded and walked another to make it 3-2.
In the third, the Panthers fired back with three runs on three hits to make it 5-3, but once again the Drakes had an answer, capitalizing on three Panthers errors to tie the game at 5-5.
Norman County scored what turned out to be the game-winning run in the fourth inning, but the Drakes had numerous chances to tie or take the lead.
In the sixth inning Blake Fetting hit Blackduck’s Matt Patch with a pitch. Then Jacob Peterson hit a single and Shane Fenske walked, loading the bases for the Drakes with one out.
Mitch Lee came on to pitch for the Panthers and got Colton Bales to strike out swinging and Mitch Sparby to fly out to center to end the inning.
In the seventh, Blackduck threatened once again. Andrew Nissen hit a seeing-eye single up the middle — his fourth hit of the game — but Lee forced a double play to end the game.
“Their guy pitched very well today in relief,” Kalvig said. “He came out and threw strikes. He had a few big strikeouts in key situations.”
Lee picked up the save for Norman County while Fetting earned the win, also in relief.
Jake Krabbenhoft took the tough-luck loss for Blackduck, relieving Peterson in the third inning.
Offensively for the Drakes, Nissen led the way, going a perfect 4-for-4 with four singles and two runs scored.
For today’s winner-take-all title game, Kalvig said he hopes to send Dylan Weisert to start. He expects Lee to get the nod to start for Norman County.
“I’m expecting another close game,” Kalvig said. “Nobody’s going to give a quarter. Both of our seasons are on the line. It should be a good one.”
Norman County 113 100 0 – 6 9 3
Blackduck 122 000 0 – 5 9 1
WP – Fetting; LP – Krabbenhoft; S – Lee.
Section 8A Tournament
NCTC, Thief River Falls
Blackduck 11, Win-E-Mac 7
Norman County 8, Northland-Remer 1
Red Lake County 12, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 2
Norman County 10, Red Lake County 0
Game 1: Norman County 13, Win-E-Mac 8
Game 2: Norman County 6, Blackduck 5
Game 3: Blackduck vs. Norman County, 2 p.m.