No. 1-seeded Velva comes back, defeats No. 3-seeded Rolla 4-2 for District 3 title
VELVA — After enjoying two days of smacking the baseball around Buen Field, the No. 1-seeded Velva 39ers mustered just one hit through four innings of Wednesday’s Class B Independent District 3 Tournament championship game against No. 3-seeded Rolla.
As grizzly bears arise from hibernation in the springtime, so too did the 39ers in a pivotal four-run fifth inning. Velva favored a small-ball approach in the 4-2 victory, but each run manifested mightier roars within the first-base dugout.
“These guys have been so close for so many years in Babe Ruth and high school ball,” Velva head coach Brent Engebretson said. “They’ve never been able to get over that hump, so I was very happy for them. I’ve been to a number of them as a coach. I’m happy with that, but I’m so happy they get to play at a state tournament. That’s the special moment you get as a coach.”
Velva starting pitcher Tace Pederson regrouped after Rolla tacked on two runs in the second inning. Jordan Stone kicked off the mini-rally with an RBI double to the deep corner of left field.
After Pederson was called for a run-scoring balk, he gathered himself and ended the threat. The 39ers could not conjure up any run support in the early stages, but the contest turned on its head in the fifth frame.
With runners on first and second, Engebretson called for Michael Thomas to lay down a sacrifice bunt. The ball dragged beside the chalk down the third-base line and eventually settled in no man’s land.
“Perfect,” Engebretson said about the bunt. “I mean, exactly like we talked about in practice the last couple days. When we’re at first and second, where to bunt and how to bunt. He’d better thank the groundskeeper for that. That stayed right where it was supposed to.”
Luke Zimmer’s infield single resembled a swinging bunt, but his hit got the job done and brought Velva’s first run home. Next, Rolla made the play at second base on Blake Engebretson’s hard grounder.
The score did not stay tied at 2-2 for long. Leadoff hitter Gage Florence ripped a textbook single into center field before Gunnar Mogen added another RBI knock.
“That was amazing,” Pederson said. “It was an amazing feeling. I was getting shivers all over because I was just so excited. Everyone was so happy and joyful.”
Pederson saved his best work for the final frames of his complete game. He alternated a sizzling fastball with some tricky off-speed pitches.
Rolla went down quietly in the top of the seventh. In a fleeting instant, the 39ers rushed past the pitcher’s mound and rejoiced at second base.
“I’m proud of all my guys,” Pederson said. “We were down 2-0. We had to come back, and then we won. It’s amazing for us to win and go to state like that.”
As the tournament concluded, Rolla head coach Tory Danielson reflected upon a memorable run.
“We got a little hot there for a while,” he said. “We put some runs up. We just ran into a pretty good pitcher here. He slowed us up. We hit the ball well, probably the best we’ve hit in a three-day stretch all year. Sometimes, it’s got to quit. It’s baseball.”
Velva will play in the Class B Independent State Tournament at Corbett Field in Minot. The 39ers will face the District 5 champion on Friday, August 7.
Jimmy Lafakis covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.