BLACKDUCK - Much of the conversion in Blackduck Friday was about baseball, specifically the exploits of its high school baseball team.
On Thursday the Drakes captured their first ever Section 8A baseball title by outlasting Red Lake County 6-5 in the rubber game of what turned out to be a three-game series between the two teams.
Cody Bergquist, who provided the winning run in Tuesday's first game with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth, duplicated that feat in the bottom of the seventh Thursday to give the Drakes a 6-5 victory, the section crown and a trip to next week's state tournament.
Earlier Thursday Red Lake County won 5-4 to force a third and decisive game.
"There is joy right now in our community," said Blackduck coach Dwight Kalvig. "It was fun for me on Friday having people I haven't talked to in a long time call and give me well wishes.
"It's been an interesting process watching the community rally around these kids," Kalvig continued. "This is a fantastic group of kids to rally around and I'm happy for them. And I'm glad to see that the school is receiving some positive notoriety."
The 22-4 Drakes have made history at Blackduck as this year's team is the first to play in the state tournament. Their next task will be to tangle with Section 2 champion BOLD (which is located in Olivia) in Thursday's 2:30 p.m. state opener at Chaska. The Warriors share Blackduck's 22-4 record and they capped their run to the state title by stopping New Ulm Cathedral 2-1 and 4-0 in the section championship series.
"All I know about BOLD is they have the same record as we do and they have to be a very good baseball team because they defeated New Ulm Cathedral," Kalvig said.
On paper, it appears that Blackduck has been placed in the tougher of the two state brackets. BOLD is ranked seventh in the Class A coaches poll and is rated second in the computer generated QRF rankings.
Blackduck is 16th in QRF and 12th in the final coaches poll.
The other lower-bracket match-up pits New York Mills (23-0) against St. Agnes (20-6). New York Mills is ranked third in the QRF and third in the poll while St. Agnes is sixth in each rating.
In the upper bracket Browerville (22-3) will meet Kenyon-Wanimingo (19-6) and Ely (20-3) will face Lac qui Parle (16-9). Browerville is fourth in the QRF and fifth in the poll while Kenyon is eighth and 11th. Ely ranks ninth in QRF and 16th according to the coaches while Lac qui Parle is 35th in the computer rankings and didn't make the top 25 in the coaches poll.
How well the Drakes will do at state remains to be seen but the coach believes that they will be ready to play their best.
"The kids understand the challenges and all year they haven't let the challenges beat us," Kalvig said. "They have bonded as a family and have been able to put all of the distractions aside. It's been a fun season and I feel honored and blessed to have the opportunity to work with these kids.
"BOLD will be a very good opponent but with these kids, they believe that they aren't done yet," the coach continued. "I get the sense that they are proud of what they have accomplished but that they are looking forward to what they can accomplish in the next two games."
If the Drakes defeat BOLD they will tangle with the New York Mills-St. Agnes winner at 2:30 p.m. Friday in Chaska.
A loss would drop the Drakes into Friday's consolation bracket and a 12:30 p.m. game in Jordan.
The Class A title game will be noon Monday, June 18, at Target Field.
Class A Tournament Pairings
Thursday, June 14
Game 1: Browerville (22-3) vs. Kenyon-Wanamingo (19-6), 10 a.m.
Game 2: Ely (20-3) vs. Lac qui Parle (16-9), 12:30 p.m.
Game 3: Blackduck (22-4) vs. BOLD (22-4), 3 p.m.
Game 4: New York Mills (23-0) vs. St. Agnes (20-6), 5:30 p.m.
Friday, June 15
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, noon
Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 6: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 10 a.m.
Game 7: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 12:30 p.m.
Consolation Final, Jordan
Game 8: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 3 p.m.
Third Place, Chaska
Game 9: Game 4 loser vs. Game 5 loser, 5 p.m.
Monday, June 18
Game 10: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner