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LaMoure withstands Renville County rally to reach state title game

Alex Eisen/MDN Renville County's Dalton Moberg (21) steps on third base while a LaMoure outfielder reels in a catch behind him Saturday evening. LaMoure defeated Renville County 7-5 in the semifinals of the Class B Independent State Tournament held at Corbett Field in Minot.

With a five-run buffer, LaMoure entered the seventh inning needing three more outs to secure a berth in the Class B Independent State Tournament title game. Easier said than done.

Upset-minded Renville County wasn’t going to wave a white flag. Instead, the Muskrats banded together for a vigorous last-ditch rally that scored three runs and left the tying runner on second base.

LaMoure survived, 7-5, and will get its crack at the championship.

“I’m always nervous,” LaMoure head coach J.R. Thielges said. “There are never enough runs, and we are never ahead by enough. We never make it easy. Our manager and I were talking yesterday a matter of fact about the last time we had a 1-2-3 last inning. It was no different tonight.”

Relief in one dugout, thoughts of what could have been in the other.

“We needed to find a little more luck on our hits today,” Renville County head coach Bart Savelkoul said. “Right out of the gates, we had hard hits all over the place, but right at people. That’s baseball. It happens.”

The Muskrats, playing as the visitors on the scoreboard, stranded a pair of runners in the opening frame.

LaMoure left the bases loaded in the bottom half, but not before Landon Piehl drove a two-run single back up the middle to plate the first runs.

Renville County starting pitcher Joe Savelkoul had to throw 32 pitches to escape a stressful first inning. After the first two LaMoure batters reached base in the second inning, Savelkoul’s time on the mound was up.

“We kind of had a 45-pitch count in mind so he could be able to go tomorrow,” Bart Savelkoul said. “And it was looking like today wasn’t going to be his day. We got to that pitch number and decided to go with Brock (Depute), who did a great job to keep us in.”

Depute got out of the second inning unscathed with an unconventional double play. The ball was caught in center field and dropped on the exchange. The LaMoure runner on first base was confused by the umpire’s signaling of the play and was tagged out frantically trying to reach second base.

Confusion aside, Renville County tied the game in the third inning without recording a hit. A fielding error in the outfield allowed Gannon Hall to score, and Corbin Hall brought in Henry Savelkoul on an RBI sacrifice fly.

“We got to clean up our defense,” Thielges said. “We had five errors yesterday and three more today. We have to make the simple plays. The routine plays. It puts less strain on your defense and your pitcher.”

LaMoure starting pitcher Jace Hanson held the Muskrats to one hit — a first-inning single by Corbin Hall — through the first four innings.

In the fifth inning, LaMoure provided the run support Hanson needed. After Corban Potts drilled a double down the left-field line, Piehl dropped his second hit into shallow right center field for his third RBI of the game, 3-2.

Four more LaMoure runs crossed home plate in the sixth inning. That included Alex Klever’s third hit: a vital two-run single.

Each insurance tally proved pivotal as Renville County mounted its comeback in the top of the seventh. The Muskrats loaded the bases with one out against left-handed Hanson, a University of Jamestown commit.

“(Hanson) has been one of our workhorses all season long,” Thielges said. “There is a reason why he is going to college to play baseball. I thought he pitched pretty well for the most part, other than the last inning when he had command problems. But our defense helped him out. I’m proud of him. I wasn’t going to take him out unless he hit his pitch count, I’ll tell you that much.”

Walks and a hit by pitch sparked the Muskrats’ rally. Henry Savelkoul earned a free pass with the bases loaded to bring the tying run to the plate. Corbin Hall kept the assembly line moving with a two-run single.

“They never think that they are out of a game,” Bart Savelkoul said. “We came into the seventh inning and there wasn’t anybody who said we were lying down. Everybody said, ‘Let’s go. Let’s get five runs right now.'”

Pressure on with the tying run standing on second base in a 7-5 contest, Hanson finally shut the door. His defense recorded a flyout and a dramatic groundout as Bryden Santos dove head-first into first base.

“We tip our hats to LaMoure,” Bart Savelkoul said. “They’re a great team. I’m glad we stood in there and fought with them. We came up short today. I wouldn’t mind playing them in a three-game series.”

Alternatively, the three-day tournament finishes today.

LaMoure faces Kidder County in the Class B Independent State Tournament championship game at 8 p.m. this evening at Corbett Field. Renville County will see Langdon in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m.

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.

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