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Blackduck baseball headed back to state with 6-5 win over Norman County

THIEF RIVER FALLS — It took a dramatic seventh inning, but Blackduck is headed back to state.

After a spirited comeback capped by a three-run sixth inning, the Drakes had to fend off a Norman County rally in the seventh inning for the right to win the Section 8A baseball title.

The Panthers scored twice in the top of the seventh and had the bases loaded with two outs, but Blackduck’s Jake Krabbenhoft shut the door, forcing a groundout and giving Blackduck the 6-5 win in its Section 8A baseball tournament game Friday afternoon at Northland Community and Technical College.

The Drakes (18-3) will play in the Class A state tournament next week at the Mini Met in Jordan.

On Friday Blackduck had trailed 3-1 through three innings but scraped together single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to tie the game at 3-3.

In the sixth inning, however, the Drakes broke it open and took their first lead of the game.

After Andrew Nissen reached on an infield single, Krabbenhoft attempted to bunt him over with a sacrifice. Both players were safe thanks to an error on Norman County pitcher Mitch Lee.

The next hitter, Matt Patch, also tried to bunt. His first two attempts went foul but he bunted once again with two strikes.

This time, it worked. Patch’s bunt would have moved the runners over successfully anyway, but Lee compounded Norman County’s problems when he threw the ball past first base. Everyone was safe and Nissen came around to score.

Later in the inning new pitcher Joel Merkens hit Dylan Weisert with a pitch to load the bases with nobody out, and Jake Peterson delivered, hitting a two-run single to make it 6-3.

Norman County was able to get three more outs with minimal damage.

The fact that the Panthers were able to get out of the jam opened the door for a chance at a comeback.

In the seventh, Blackduck pitcher Weisert walked Lee to start things off. He was able to strike out Jacob Hagen to get the first out of the inning, but he walked the next batter and gave up a single to load the bases.

Blake Fetting came through for the Panthers, lacing a single to left that scored two runs and cut Blackduck’s lead to 6-5.

Krabbenhoft came on to relieve Weisert, but he didn’t have it easy, either.

He was able to force a groundout for the second out but walked the bases loaded for Austin Merkins.

Merkins took a few pitches and was up in the count 3-1. Krabbenhoft painted the corner for a called strike to put the count full with two outs. Then Merkins hit a comebacker to Krabbenhoft, who tossed it to Shane Fenske at first to get out of the jam.

Krabbenhoft earned the save in just 2/3 inning of work. Wesiert got the win, giving up five runs on eight hits. He struck out just one and walked one.

Lee took the loss for Norman County, going five innings and giving up all six runs on nine hits. He struck out six, walked one and hit a batter.

The Panthers (21-5) also committed four errors, three of which led to runs.

Fenske went 2-for-4 with two RBIs to lead the Drakes offensively.

Blackduck 6, Norman County 5

Norman County   102 000 2 – 5  8  4

Blackduck            100 113 x – 6 10 1

Lee (L) Merkins and Kappes. K-6, BB-1, HBP-2.

Weisert (W, 7-1); Krabbenhoft (S, 7) and Bales. K-1, BB-1

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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