Blackduck rallies for another walk-off win; takes Section 8A title for first trip to state
BEMIDJI — One run.
That’s all that separated Blackduck and Red Lake County in this week’s Section 8A tournament.
Tuesday’s game went nine innings, with Blackduck winning 5-4 on a walk-off single from Cody Bergquist.
When the Rebels defeated East Grand Forks Sacred Heart in the nightcap Tuesday to stay alive, the teams went at it again Thursday at the Bemidji State University baseball diamond.
It gave Bergquist the chance to be the hero once again.
The Drakes (22-4) dropped the first game of the afternoon 5-4, failing to capitalize on the double-elimination format that had the Rebels on the ropes.
Instead, it took a rally from an early 4-0 deficit and some more late-inning magic for the Drakes to ultimately – finally – prevail. The teams played a total of 23 innings in a span of two days.
Bergquist’s bases-loaded, one-out single in the bottom of the seventh lifted the Drakes past Red Lake County and into the state tournament for the first time ever with a 6-5 win for the Section 8A title.
“It was a team effort,” Bergquist said after his single gave the Drakes a win. “I mean, our school’s never been here. It’s really exciting right now; I don’t even know what to say.”
Blackduck takes on Section 2A champions BOLD in their first-round state playoff game at 3 p.m. Thursday, June 14, in Chaska.
“It’s really emotional,” Blackduck head coach Dwight Kalvig said. “It’s the first time (we’re going to state) in school history. I can’t say enough for these kids.
“And hats off to Red Lake County. They played a heck of a ballgame. They gave us everything we could handle.”
Red Lake County (16-11) had knocked around Bergquist a bit in the first game of the day. The Rebels scored four runs on five hits off Bergquist in just 2 2/3 innings, giving him the loss.
But Kalvig never doubted his senior.
“Just because you can’t contribute on one thing, you can always contribute on something else,” an emotional Kalvig said following the second game. “That’s a senior coming through too. He understood that.”
“We knew we had the second game, we knew we beat them once before,” Bergquist said of Blackduck’s mindset following that first game. He fully admitted he was not on his game.
In the first game the Drakes scored single runs in the second, third, fifth and sixth innings, but couldn’t get the crucial hit – Blackduck stranded 10 runners on base and the Rebels were able to force a second game.
“We knew we could beat them, so it just came down to making the plays. But they’re a good team. Every game we played against them was a one-run game.”
In the second game, the Drakes actually needed two runs to win in the seventh after tying it at 5-5 in the sixth.
In the Rebels’ seventh, Blackduck pitcher Aaron Nissen retired the first two batters he faced but hit leadoff batter Zack Landman.
Landman stole second, then raced around to score after Blackduck left fielder Dylan Weisert let a routine single get by him in the outfield.
But the Drakes, who had earlier erased a 4-0 Rebels lead in the third inning with three of their own in the bottom half, didn’t waste time answering.
Shane Fenske, the leadoff hitter in the inning, reached when Red Lake County shortstop Landman pulled first baseman Lars Brevik off the bag on a routine grounder. Lucas Krabbenhoft’s sacrifice bunt got him to third and he scored after singles from Jacob Krabbenhoft and Mitch Sparby.
Just like that, Blackduck had tied it. Again.
Rebel hurler Dylan Zutz, who earned the save in the first game, walked Matthew Patch to load the bases for Bergquist.
Red Lake County head coach Chris Nelson didn’t have a lot to say about how his team let the lead slip away twice.
“I think we just played with too much fire today,” Nelson said. “They had the last at bats and they made something happen.”
The Rebels certainly didn’t make it easy on themselves in the field. They committed four errors, including a crucial one in the sixth that allowed Patch to score the tying run.
But Blackduck wasn’t immune to errors, either.
The Drakes spotted the Rebels a 4-0 lead in the top of the third thanks in part to three errors.
Pitcher Aaron Nissen, who had come on in relief for starter Weisert, gave up four hits in the third but two of those runs crossed the plate as a direct result of throwing errors – one by Nissen and one by Fenske.
Nissen threw more than 130 pitches in Tuesday’s marathon, so that he even came back out to pitch Thursday was spectacular. But he said he didn’t get frustrated after Red Lake County’s big third.
“I was confident that we would bounce back,” he said. “I know we’re a good team and we have a lineup that can always score no matter what.”
Nissen picked up the win in six innings of relief. Zutz picked up the loss for Red Lake County after starter Garrett Schmitz threw a solid six.
“They’re a great team to play,” Nissen said of Red Lake County. “We’ve got to be proud of ourselves. That’s a really solid team that we just beat. We battled last game and we battled this game and were able to beat them.”
Red Lake County 5, Blackduck 4
RLC 013 001 0 – 5 8 4
Blackduck 011 011 0 – 4 9 1
Brule (W), Zutz (7, S) and Casavan. K-7, BB-2.
Bergquist (L), Weisert (2) and Fenske. K- 2, BB-2.
Blackduck 6, Red Lake County 5
RLC 004 000 1 – 5 5 4
Blackduck 003 001 2 – 6 8 4
Schmitz, Zutz (7, L, BS) and Casavan. K-4, BB-6.
Weisert, Nissen (2, W) and Fenske. K-6. BB-1.