PREP BASEBALL: Bagley battles, forces extra innings, but can't overcome Norman County in Section 8A playoffs
BEMIDJI — Bagley’s shot at its first section baseball title since 1978 ended Thursday, but the Flyers didn’t back down easily.
Norman County pitcher DJ Kappes got the first two outs but a pair of singles — by Jacob Skansburg and Colton Adams — set up Ryan LaRue’s game-tying at-bat.
The Wildcats brought in ace Blake Fetting to seal the deal but LaRue hit an infield single. He would have been safe, but the throw from third baseman Ryan Olson got away from the first baseman, allowing Skansburg to come around and score, tying the game.
That momentum didn’t last — Norman County scored four times in the top of the eighth — but Bagley kept swinging until the last out.
The Flyers loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the eighth but couldn’t come up with a hit to keep the game — or their season — alive any longer.
Norman County escaped with an 8-4 victory in their Section 8A losers’ bracket game Thursday at BSU, eliminating the Flyers from the playoffs. Bagley finishes the season with a 13-11 record.
“I’m prouder than proud can be of my kids,” Bagley head coach Darris Dahl said. “We didn’t get much of a shot to actually play earlier in the year.... we’re way up here in the stix where nobody expects much from you. We played a lot of AA teams so our record maybe didn’t reflect how good we could be.
“But we got here and played an unbelievable game today. We just couldn’t get it done.”
The Wildcats (22-4) routed Red Lake County 9-2 later Thursday night, forcing a winner-take-all Section 8A championship game today at 2 p.m.
In Thursday’s opener the teams exchanged leads all game.
The Wildcats scored in the top of the first on Fetting’s RBI single, but Bagley answered in the bottom half of the inning when Tyler Godin walked, stole second, advanced to third on a dropped third strike and came home on an error.
Bagley took a lead in the bottom of the fourth, then saw Norman County score twice in the top of the fifth before tying it once again in the bottom of the fifth.
Norman County scored yet again in the top of the sixth, setting up Bagley’s seventh-inning rally.
Although Bagley appeared to have some momentum going into the top of the eighth, starter Nate Rolfson — who had been effective in the first seven innings — ran out of gas.
He got the first out, forcing Lucas Lindell to ground to second, but couldn’t retire another batter.
After Rolfson gave up a single to Michael Kolness, a double to JD Kappes then hit Austin Merkens to load the bases, Dahl brought in Corbin Thorson in relief.
Thorson walked the first batter, Fetting, then gave up an run-scoring single up the middle to Dylan Wilkens that scored two runs. He struck out Teddy Bruner but on the dropped third strike, a fourth run scored from third on the throw.
In all the Wildcats managed four runs on three hits and one error in that final inning.
Dahl said he admired the job Thorson did in relief.
“I’m proud of both my pitchers: Nate for going as long as he did and Thorson for coming in late there,” he said. “It’s not an easy job to inherit a bases-loaded, no out situation and get out of it. He did a nice job up there.”
In their half of the eighth, Thorson started the rally with a single. Mark Lundston reached on an error and Lucas Olson singled to load the bases.
Norman County’s Ryan Olson came in to get the last three outs and did so — he struck out Godin swinging and Ben Thoma looking. Skansburg grounded out.
“I thought that was a questionable strikeout call,” Dahl said of Thoma’s at-bat. “The low strike was there until the third inning, then it disappeared for a while there until it showed up there. As a hitter, that’s hard to adjust to when you decide what to swing at and what not to swing at. You put the bat on the ball with the bases loaded and you want to get home as many runs as you can.”
Bagley lost to both potential Section 8A champions. Dahl said he thought Norman County and Red Lake County are solid teams capable of winning.
“They’re pretty evenly matched teams,” he said. “They’re both good. “The western side of the section has always been pretty strong. Both teams are well-coached and have good pitching, so either of them could win and represent our section well.”
Norman County 8, Bagley 4 (8 innings)
NC 100 021 04 — 8 11 6
Bagley 100 110 10 — 4 10 3
Kappes, Fetting (W, BS, 7), Olson (8, S) and Hagen, Kappes. K-6, BB-2.
Rolfson (L), Thorson (8) and Thoma. K-7, BB-3.