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PREP BASEBALL: Norman County eliminates Blackduck; Bagley drops to losers' bracket

Blackduck’s Andrew Nissen (left) hustles to first as a short infield pop fly dropped between Norman County pitcher Lucas Lindell (center) and first baseman Dylan Wilkens during Tuesday’s Section 8A playoff game. Norman County won 2-1. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer 1 / 2
Red Lake County’s Tristan Knott slides headfirst into home as Bagley catcher Ben Thoma waits for a throw during the fourth inning of their Section 8A baseball game at BSU. The Rebels needed just three runs to blank the Flyers 3-0. Bagley will take on Norman County Thursday in a loser-out game at BSU. The winner takes on Red Lake County for the Section 8A title. Jack Hittinger | Bemidji Pioneer 2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- For the first time since 2011, there will be a new Section 8A baseball champion.

Norman County scored a pair of first-inning runs off Blackduck’s Jake Krabbenhoft then relied on the pitching of Lucas Lindell to do the rest, as the Wildcats unseated the two-time defending section champions 2-1 Tuesday afternoon at the Bemidji State baseball diamond.

A leadoff walk from JD Kappes, an RBI triple from Austin Merkens and a run-scoring single from Blake Fetting was all the Lindell and the Wildcats would need.

“Lucas was really good today,” Norman County coach Mike Gullingsrud said. “He’s real crafty. He threw lots of offspeed, as you see. He won’t throw it by you but he was good. He made the pitches he had to make.”

The Norman County sophomore didn’t have a lot of speed on his pitches but fooled the Drakes with a nasty breaking ball; he struck out 10 batters on eight hits.

Although Blackduck outhit Norman County 8-3, the Drakes’ lone run came via a solo home run by designated hitter Jake Peterson in the top of the second.

“We just didn’t get the one big break,” Blackduck head coach Dwight Kalvig said. “That’s kinda been the story of our whole tournament. For whatever reason getting that clutch key hit has been an issue we’ve been fighting that year. Against quality teams we just haven't been able to get that one extra hit to bust that game open.”

The Drakes had numerous chances to plate more runs but each time Lindell pitched himself out of the jam.

In the third inning, the Drakes loaded the bases with just one out but Peterson lined into a double play to end the threat.

In the top of the fifth, Tanner Depew and Krabbenhoft both singled with one out. Matt Patch struck out but reached base on a dropped third strike and it looked as though the Drakes would have one out with the bases loaded.

However, Depew was caught napping on third base and was thrown out by the Norman County catcher.

Peterson grounded out to end the inning on the very first pitch of his at-bat.

In the seventh inning the Drakes again threatened. After Lindell got the first two outs -- a strikeout and a groundout -- he ran into trouble with Krabbenhoft and Patch.

Both players singled, and Gullingsrud elected to go to his bullpen. Blake Fetting -- who had taken a funny hop to the face while playing shortstop earlier in the game -- came in to face Peterson.

Fetting struck him out on a check swing, eliminating the Drakes from the postseason.

“I have to give a tip of a hat to Blackduck,” Gullingsrud said. “We got two guys out then they got some guys on base. Blake has been one of our top arms and we wanted to get that last out. Lucas got us to that point, but we figured we should let Blake come in and get the last out.”

Blackduck ends its season at 13-8.

“I always said if you can have the tying or winning run in scoring position at the end of the game, you can’t complain,” Kalvig said. “We had the right guys up there we just couldn’t get the hit.”

Krabbenhoft took the tough-luck loss for Blackduck. After giving up two hits in the bottom of the first he settled in and allowed just one hit the rest of the way -- a fourth-inning single by Merkens.

“That opening walk hurt, but he settled down after that,” Kalvig said. “They had some baserunners, but we shut them down.

“Baseball’s one of those games where you can do everything right and still not win. I was really proud with our team and what they did. They competed and proved they belonged out there.”

Norman County 2, Blackduck 1

Blackduck   010 000 0 -- 1   8   2

NC   200 000 x -- 2   3   1

Lindell (W), Fetting (7,S) and Kappes. K-10, BB-0.

Krabbenhoft (L) and Bales. K-6, BB-4.

Wildcats move on, beat KCC

After dispatching the Drakes, Norman County moved on to the losers’ bracket final with a 9-5 victory over Kittson County Central.

Norman County will take on Bagley at 2 p.m. Thursday in another elimination game; the winner of that game faces Red Lake County in Thursday’s 4:30 p.m. championship game.

Bagley (13-0) fell to Red Lake County 3-0 in the late winners’ bracket game Tuesday night.

Kittson (9-7) defeated Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 14-2 in six innings earlier in the day and the Bearcats continued their momentum early in the game against the Wildcats (20-4).

The Bearcats took a 5-0 lead with three runs in the first inning and two more in the fourth off Fetting, who started after earning the one-out save against Blackduck.

But the Wildcats rallied, tying the game with a five-run fourth and taking the lead in a four-run fifth.

Ryan Olson earned the win in relief for Norman County, coming in to relieve Fetting in the fourth inning. Olson also had a big two-out triple in the fifth inning.

Kittson County Central 14, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 2 (6 inns)

KCC   500 207 -- 14   11   1

WHA   020 000 -- 2     5   1

Olsonawski (W) and Strege. K-2, BB-2.

Richter (L) and Buckentin. K-4, BB-8.

Norman County 9, Kittson County Central 5

KCC   300 200 0 -- 5   7   7

NC     000 540 x -- 9   6   2

Klegstad (L), Kasprowicz (4), Mortensen (6) and Strege. K-4, BB-3.

Fetting, Olson (W, 4) and Kappes. K-8, BB-4.

Red Lake County 3, Bagley 0

RLC      000 200 1 -- 3

Bagley    000 000 0 -- 0