The Bemidji Mudcats will return to the state tournament.
They clinched a berth Sunday with a 10-2 win over Hibbing after losing earlier in the winners bracket final 5-2 to Blaine.
Those two will meet at BSU Sunday at 1 to determine seedings for the state with Bemidji needing to win twice to secure the No. 1 seed. Blaine is in its first season in Region 6B.
Bemidji advanced to the winners bracket final Saturday night in an unusual method.
The Duluth Express had taken a 3-2 lead in the third inning when the Mudcats filed a protest on their opponent using ineligible players.
The protest was upheld and the Cats awarded a forfeit.
Bemidji had scored twice in the first against Jeff Adams but the Express countered with three in the third off Doug Peterson on a bases loaded double after two walks around a single had filled the bases.
Bemidji then faced Blaine Sunday, a team that had beaten Hibbing 7-5 to gain the final.
The Twin Cities team took a 2-0 lead in the fifth on a walk and doubles by Corey Johnson and Joey Olson, Olson's driving home both runs.
Bemidji drew even in the last of the frame. Two walks around an Andrew Hengel single filled the bases. After a force at home on Dan Bauer's grounder to third, Neil Huewe delivered both runs with a double. Another walk refilled the bases but a strikeout ended further scoring.
Bemidji was not to threaten again until the ninth.
In the meantime, Blaine went ahead 5-2 in the sixth when Dan Massey tripled with two outs after a single and walk.
That ended Bauer's stay with Sam Anderson relieving, Massey crossed on a wild pitch before he got the final out. But he blanked Blaine the rest of the way.
Bemidji put two runners on base on walks with one gone in the ninth inning but a pop up and ground out ended the game.
Bemidji had only four hits,, two by Tony Klaers. Blaine had 10, four by Olson.
Bauer dropped to 1-1 with the setback.
Clinch state berth
Hibbing, which had fallen to Blaine in the opening game of the day, beat Grand Rapids 9-0 in its second start to face Bemidji.
The Mudcats, who had beaten Hibbing three times this summer by one run, wasted little time in the rematch, spotting the Miners two runs in the first, then scoring 10 unanswered runs to win.
Paul Fenner worked the first five to get his eighth win with Peterson closing with two scoreless frames. The pair limited the Miners to seven hits.
Hibbing opened with two in the first after two outs when Andy Finco and ex-Mudcat Shaun Ross singled and David Grabowski tripled.
But they managed only four more hits the rest of the game, two coming in the eighth when Nick Zubich singled with one gone and Ross doubled one out later. but Peterson fanned Grabowski to end that threat and retired the side in order in the ninth,
Bemidji got one back in the first on Bauer's leadoff home runoff Ben Sartori.
The Mudcats went ahead 5-2 in the second, scoring four times against Ben Sartori.
Singles by Hengel, John GrIndeland and Peterson loaded the bases and Hengel crossed on a wild pitch.
Anderson delivered the other three with his second home run of the tourney.
Four more scored in the fifth when Bauer and Huewe singled and Klaers doubled home Bauer.
Klaers' double sent Huewe across and another two bagger by Jeff Schaper scored Klaers. Hengel plated Schaper with a single.
With two gone in the seventh, Peterson and Anderson doubled for the 10th run.
Bauer and Hengel had three hits and Huewe, Klaers, Grindeland, Peterson and Anderson two each in the 17-hit Bemidji assault.
The 3-1 finish at the region lifted the Mudcats to 27-8-1 on the year.
Tyler Norland and Anderson will get the mound starts Sunday. Fenner will pitch the state opener.
The state meet will be held at Arlington and Gaylord, opening Aug. 20 and concluding three weekends of play Labor Day.
(Game forfeited to Bemidji, use of ineligible players)