Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

By Pat Miller
Bemidji Pioneer 

Blackduck, Cass Lake-Bena in 8A semifinals


Rick Olhava grabbed the reins of Blackduck’s baseball program four years ago and when he stepped onto the diamond for the first time he had a vision.

“I wanted our program to develop to the point where we played like Cass Lake-Bena does,” Olhava said. “I wanted us to have that consistency. I wanted us to go into a game ahead by three runs instead of behind by three runs in terms of attitude.”

Patience and attention to detail have guided the Drakes the past few seasons and the extra effort put forth by the coaches and the players have paid dividends. The result of that collective dedication will be on display today as Blackduck battles Norman County in the semifinals of the Section 8A tournament at NCTC in Thief River Falls.

The first pitch is set for 3:30 p.m. and the game is the back half of the semifinal doubleheader which opens with Cass Lake-Bena facing Red Lake County at 1 p.m.

The Drakes defeated the Panthers 5-2 Thursday in the sub-section championship game at BSU and own the East’s top seed. Norman County lost 11-8 to Red Lake County in the West title game and is the second seed of its sub-section.

“It’s exciting playing in the section tournament,” Olhava said. “Three years ago we set out to build a strong baseball program at Blackduck and we are on the verge of doing that. Our team also has a mixture of younger players and veteran players and that speaks well for our future.”

For the past few weeks the Drakes, who finished the regular season ranked third in the state Class A baseball poll and are 19-3, have been going head-to-head with familiar foes and there were no secrets between the two opponents.

That is not the case today, however.

“This is an exciting situation for us because it is an opportunity to play a team we know little about and a team that knows little about us,” Olhava said. “This is a fresh start for both clubs and our viewpoint is that we can just go out and play some baseball.

“From what I can tell Norman County puts the ball in play and can score runs, just like we do. I think the team that plays defense better is the team that will win,” the coach added.

When Blackduck defeated Fosston 5-3 last Thursday in the sub-section semifinals Olhava and the Drakes posted their first victory on the BSU diamond in four years, a losing string that included a few regular-season games and a handful of sub-section contests.

That losing streak is over, however, and Olhava believes the pressure is off.

“We faced some nerves in the sub-section and, although we’ll probably still have a few (Tuesday) we are more excited than nervous,” the coach said. “The kids feel somewhat accomplished by what they have done and now they are ready to play more baseball.”

Blackduck’s probable lineup today will see Cody Bergquist on the mound, Michael Dexter behind the plate and an infield of Shane Fenske at first, Dominic Anderson at second, Jake Krabbenhoft at third and Trey Volk at short.

The outfield will feature Dylan Weisert in left, Luke Binkley in center and Brandon Beck in right.

Lucas Krabbenhoft is the probable designated hitter.

While Blackduck is making its first appearance in the 8A final four in recent years, Cass Lake-Bena (18-4) has been here four of the past five springs.

“This will be our third straight season in the section final and, hopefully, we can find a way to win it this time,” CL-B coach Ken Wittner said.

Red Lake County, 17-6, also is making a second straight appearance and, although the teams haven’t faced each other in three seasons, Wittner knows that the Panthers will have to play their best ball to win.

“Red Lake County hasn’t lost to a Class A team all year,” Wittner said. “They play a tougher schedule than we do. But we’ve been improving all year and, hopefully, we can keep that up in the section tournament.”

Chad Wittner will get the pitching nod today and he will be tossing to Taylor Humphrey. Wesley Moe will be at first, Ben Ruzek at second, Caleb Fisher at short and Jake Ellis at third.

Jordan Collins will be in left, Brian Vail in center and Daven Staples in right.

The Class A golf meet is June 15-16 at Pebble Creek in Becker and five area athletes earned spots in the field.

Nick Liapis of Blackduck tied for fifth place last week in the 7A meet at Virginia and was third among the individuals not on Babbit-Embarras-Soudan-Tower’s roster which won the team title.

Liapis shot 82-90-172 on way to his state-qualifying performance.

In the girls 7A meet Kaylee Fisher of Kelliher-Northome was seventh overall and fifth among the individual qualifiers with rounds of 101-102-203.

In Section 8A, Corey Beaulieu of Red Lake and Randahl Johnson and Cody Wind of Cass Lake-Bena are headed to state.

Johnson shot 89 and Wind 90 last week at the section meet hosted by the Bemidji Town & Country Club. Beaulieu shot 91 and earned the section’s final state berth by winning a playoff.

Analisa Huschle of Bagley-Fosston will hope to continue her success at the state track and field meet Friday and Saturday as she qualified in four individual events.

The defending champion and Class A record holder in the triple jump and long jump, Huschle returns to state in those events plus the 100 and 200. The Bagley-Fosston senior will begin her state meet action Friday afternoon.

Huschle will also be cheering her 4x100 and 4x200 relay teammates who also won the 8A races at Park Rapids last Saturday and qualified for state.

The 4x100 team includes Emily Julin, Courtney Cosca, Alyssa Schmidt and Lynsey Bardwell. The same foursome comprises the 4x200 relay squad.

In the Class A boys division the lone area athlete to make it to state is Mark Goss of Bagley-Fosston who won the 8A high jump by clearing 6-0.


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