Mudcats advance to state tournament
The Blaine Fusion scored in the last of the 10th inning Sunday to beat the Bemidji Mudcats 6-5 and retain their Region 6B baseball title.
Both teams qualified for the state meet which opens Aug. 20 at Willmar and Bird Island.
They will face the Region 1 winner and runner-up in Saturday morning games, the Cats facing the winner and Blaine the second-place finisher.
Sunday's game marked the third straight extra-inning game for the Cats who had bowed to Blaine 1-0 in 13 Saturday afternoon and eliminated Hibbing 8-7 in 10 that night.
Sunday Bemidji fought back to overcome 4-0 and 5-4 deficits, knotting the score in the seventh.
The two teams then battled until the final out in the 10th when Chris Anderson's single sent home the winning run.
Right hander Doug Peterson battled the entire distance, facing base runners in all 10 frames.
He allowed 11 hits and walked seven but was tight in the clutch, stranding 11.
Two Blaine runs were the result of errors and two others scored on two-out wild pitches.
Alex Nienaber blanked the Cats over the first five frames on three hits but failed to survive the sixth when Bemidji combined four hits with two walks to tie 4-4.
But they stranded runners in the eighth and ninth before going out in order in the 10th for only the second time all day.
Hibbing took a 2-0 lead at the start on a hit batter, two singles and wild pitch.
It became 3-0 in the second on an error, Mike Latta's double and a ground out.
Another run scored in the third on a walk, ground out and two-out error.
Bemidji finally came alive in the sixth.
Tony Klaers singled with one out and Kyle Figgins walked with two gone. Brian Murphy's looper over second filled the bases. Kevin Murphy the singled in the first run and Jon Clark coaxed a walk to make it 4-2.
That ended Nienaber's stay in favor of Brian Hodny.
Andrew Hengel greeted him with a double up the alley in left-center to tie the game.
Blaine took back the lead in its at-bat when Eric Collins and Chris Sieling singled and Collins crossed on a wild pitch.
Bemidji tied it again in the seventh on hits by Brent Magnuson and Jeff Schaper around a sacrifice.
But doubleplays killed rallies in the eighth and ninth.
Blaine finally scored in the 10th when Sieling singled and Latta walked with one gone.
Peterson fanned Joe Tupy and walked Dan Mosser to load the bases. Anderson then fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches before lining the ball up the middle to win.
Peterson threw 171 pitches, topping the 153 of Tyler Norland and 145 by Paul Fenner in earlier games.
Kevin Murphy led the Bemidji attack with four hits with Brent Magnuson adding three.
The win was the third over Bemidji by the Fusion this season. Both teams dropped their openers at last year's state meet.
The 16 Class B teams will play once opening weekend with the eight winners returning the following week to begin double-elimination play.
Bemidji will take a 22-18 record into state play.
On to state
The Mudcats advanced to the state Saturday with a 10-innning 8-7 win over Hibbing's Miners in the losers' bracket final of the 6B tournament.
The Hibbing win came far less easily than Friday's 10-4 decision over the Miners.
Bemidji held a 4-2 lead after six before Hibbing tied the score in the seventh. The Cats answered with two in their at-bat and added another in the eighth to take a 7-4 advantage into the final at-bat.
But with two outs and two on Jake Casareto lofted a home run over the left-center field fence to send the game into extra innings.
Bemidji finally won with a run in the 10th, unearned, on Brent Magnuson's single.
Andrew Hengel got the win in relief of Keenan Humphrey who left during the seventh-inning Hibbing uprising.
Simon Anderson led an 11-hit attack with a pair of home runs and three hits. Magnuson, Neil Huewe and Hengel each added two.
Hibbing took its only lead with a run in the second on an error and a double.
Bemidji tied it in the third on singles by Anderson and Huewe around a force play and stolen base.
The Cats moved ahead 4-1 in the fourth when Jon Clark doubled, Hengel singled and Anderson struck his first home run.
Hibbing answered with one in the fifth on an error and Colin Moberly's double.
They tied it in the seventh when Moberly doubled in Nick Kepler, took third on a wild pitch and scored on another after Hengel relieved Humphrey. He got the final two outs and pitched a perfect eighth.
Bemidji gave him back the lead in the last of the seventh on Anderson's second homer, singles by Magnuson and Huewe and a sacrifice fly.
It became 7-4 in the eighth when Brian Murphy singled and Hengel doubled.
Hengel walked the opening batter in the ninth, fanned the next two and passed Steinberg to bring up Casareto. He promptly tied the count with his round-tripper.
The game-winner came in the 10th, also unearned, when pinch hitter Paul Fenner reached on an error, took second on a sacrifice, third on a ground out and scored on Magnuson's single up the middle.
Mudcats 000 004 100 0 - 5 11 2
Blaine 211 000 100 1 - 6 11 0
Peterson (2-6) and Clark
Nienaber, Hodny (W) (6) and Latta
Hibbing 010 010 203 0 - 7 9 3
Mudcats 001 300-210 1 - 8 11 2
Moberly, Steinberg (L) (8) and Steinberg, Eldien (8)
Humphrey, Hengel (2-0) (7) and Clark