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BASEBALL: Everyone shares in Blackduck's success

THIEF RIVER FALLS — Early Friday night near Blackduck the sirens sounded, the flashing lights on the police cars and fire trucks pierced the sky and Highway 71 was clogged with a ribbon of slow-moving vehicles.

A stranger coming upon the area would have wondered what calamity was the cause of such a scene but all who follow Blackduck baseball knew what was going on.

“The police and firemen are going to give us a parade escort,” said Drakes baseball coach Dwight Kalvig early Friday night. “And there will be more than just the fire trucks and police cars. Blackduck is full of excited people right now and everyone is coming to welcome us.”

The celebration was the result of Blackduck’s 6-5 victory over Norman County Friday afternoon in the championship game of the Section 8A tournament in Thief River Falls. The reward for the gritty triumph is a trip to Jordan on Thursday for the opening round of the state tourney.

The Drakes will be making their second consecutive visit to the state event. Last year they claimed the prize and eventually finished fourth at the tourney.

Blackduck’s first-round opponent will be determined over the weekend. The top five teams in the field, according to the state tournament coaches, will be seeded and the three non-seeded teams will be paired against the top three squads.

Although who plays who still needs to be determined, the teams involved have been established.

Blackduck will represent Section 8. The other section champs are Wabasha (1), BOLD (2), Windom (3), St. Agnes (4), Osakis (5), New York Mills (6) and Floodwood (7).

Snapping a state tournament drought last year was a tremendous feat for Blackduck but validating the strength of the program by repeating in 2013 is special.

“This is a monumental event,” Kalvig said. “This championship feels a little different than last year’s. “Last year’s was special but there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the guys this year to repeat. And the kids responded.

“These kids do not have ‘quit’ in their vocabulary. Even when we were down 3-1 in the fourth inning on Friday they found a way to come back,” Kalvig said. “I can’t say enough about the dedication, commitment and work ethic these kids showed.”

Based on strength of schedule Norman County and the other the teams of the West Sub-Section appeared to be better tested than their East Sub-Section counterparts. But the Drakes, who entered the postseason 13-2, did not pay much attention to the opinions of others.

Friday in the championship game the Drakes won because they accomplished their tasks while Norman County struggled in the spotlight. Defensively the Drakes made only one error while the Panthers hurt themselves with four boots.

“I have to give Norman County a tip of my hat but I think on Friday we played better than they did,” Kalvig said. “Defensively we made one throwing error and in the sixth inning we got a couple of runners on, played small ball and forced them to make the plays.”

The Panthers floundered in that frame and the Drakes’ strategy resulted in three huge runs.

The players, coaches and fans will celebrate their section title over the weekend but on Monday the players will be back to work. Kalvig hopes that he can take his team to southern Minnesota on Tuesday so the players can have some time to relax, look at the park and prepare for the upcoming tasks.

When they hit the field on Thursday the Drakes will be in familiar territory. Last spring they played their state tournament games in Chaska. This year they are opening the tournament six miles to the south in Jordan.

And they won’t be alone.

“What a cast of support the baseball program in Blackduck has,” Kalvig said. “Everybody can share in this.”

And everybody will.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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