Blue Ox outlast Thief River Falls
The Blue Ox trumped the Thief River Falls mound ace in scoring a 12-inning 3-2 victory Wednesday night at BSU.
It was the opener of a best-of-three series in the Norman-Polk-North playoffs.
Game 2 will be tonight at Thief River with the third game, if needed, at Bemidji at a time yet to be determined.
Roseau and Warroad are playing the other northern division playoff while Ada, Crookston, East Grand Forks and Stephen-Argyle are battling in the southern division.
The Ox, who divided their four games with the Thieves this summer, faced a major obstacle from the start when the visitors sent Tyler Norland to the hill.
The former BSU and long-time Mudcats star is playing his first season of Class C ball, electing to remain in his home town this summer after commuting to Bemidji in recent years.
The high school teacher is the VFW baseball coach at TRF.
Norland proved a major difficulty. But the Ox held firm and battled the Thieves to the end behind the strong hurling of Garrett Harris and Ryan Sullivan.
Both weak-hitting teams had their problems at the plate and the issue came down to which would make the first mistake.
For 11 frames, the game was errorless.
But in the 12th, a one-out single and sacrifice brought Sullivan to the plate.,
He drilled a shot that went through the third baseman into left field with runner Sol Schneider safe at the plate when the throw home was not handled.
Thief River scored against Harris in the first when manager Chanc Keefe singled, took third on Steve Wiseth's double into the left-field corner and scored on a ground out.
But Harris set them down through the next six frames, threatened only in the sixth when he issued a pair of walks with one out. A force play and line drive to left ended that inning.
The Ox took a 2-1 lead in the third, bunching three of their eight hits.
Norland committed the cardinal sin by walking the No. 9 hitter, Luke Burns, with one gone.
Harris then looped a single over second and both runners advanced on a wild pitch.
Burns crossed as Brian Jamieson bounced a ball deep into the hole at short for an infield single and Harris scored as his brother Landon hit into a force at second, barely beating the return throw to first.
That was to be the only Blue Ox threat until the winning run crossed in the 12th.
Schneider reached second in the seventh on a single and wild pitch and Josh Kelsey did likewise in the eighth when he reached on a wild pitch third strike and moved up an on another wild pitch. Both were stranded.
Harris left after eight, stranding a runner at third in the seventh and escaping a two-on situation with a line drive double play in the eighth.
Sullivan pitched a solid final four frames. He fanned five in that stretch including the side in the 10th.
The Thieves had runners in the 11th and 12th but neither reached second. He was rewarded when his 12th-inning shot to third was mishandled resulting in the winning run.
Ironically, while Norland's background has been in Bemidji the past decade, Sullivan's father, long-time Middle School and summer rec tennis coach Pete, is a Thief River Falls native and one-time Bemidji opponent in summer league and high school play.
Jamieson, who had originally been listed to start Wednesday, will get tonight's call.
Matt Fossen or Landon Harris would be available Sunday should the third game be needed.
TRF 100-000-010-000 - 2-5-1
Blue Ox 002-000-000-001 - 3-8-0
Norland and Keefe
G. Harris, Sullivan (1-1) (9) and Jacobson