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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 24 2011

Baseball squad rescues motorist

HILLSBORO, N.D. – Mayville State head baseball coach Scott Berry surpassed 800 career victories this month. Tuesday night, he added one winter storm rescue to his resume.

The Comets bus was returning from Mitchell, S.D., when it got stuck in ice and heavy snow at the North Dakota Highway 200 interchange off of Interstate 29 – just 11 miles from home. On the other side of the bridge stranded in a Jeep Grand Cherokee, in a ditch, was Mayville State student Kjerstin Bakke – a Berry family friend.

“A baseball coach and a baseball team were at the right place at the right time and you had a guy willing to take a risk,” said Steve Bakke, Kjerstin’s father and a former pastor at Fargo’s Hope Lutheran Church who now serves in New London, Minn.

A trail of phone calls that started with Steve Bakke alerted Berry to the fact that Kjerstin was in the ditch.

With local law enforcement and service vehicles unable to reach her because of the poor conditions, Steve Bakke called Craig Richie, a friend and Fargo lawyer, to see if he knew of anybody who could help.

Richie contacted his friend Berry, who happened to be on I-29 less than 15 miles from the exit. The Comets’ game at Dakota Wesleyan earlier in the day lasted only two innings because of rain.

“It didn’t enter my head that we wouldn’t get home,” said Berry, who in 30 years of coaching has seen all kinds of travel conditions. “There was snow … but then we hit that (snow) batch at Highway 200.”

Kjerstin Bakke had been in constant contact with police dispatch centers in Mayville and Hillsboro. They finally told her to be prepared to spend the night in the ditch, she said.

Steve Bakke said he could sense feelings of panic in his daughter’s voice. He said she was crying. But, after about three hours, Berry and two Comet assistants reached her.

“It was totally like God was watching out for me,” Kjerstin Bakke said. “If it weren’t for Scott, I honestly don’t know what would have happened.”

Later, a tow truck got to the car and pulled it out, but with low fuel and no place to safely park her vehicle near the Mayville bus, the decision was made to drive the seven miles back to Hillsboro.

It took about 45 minutes.

“It was scary,” Berry said.

Steve Bakke said the reason Kjerstin attended Mayville State in the first place was because of Laurie Berry, Scott’s late wife who died last summer.

“She made Kjerstin feel right at home,” Steve Bakke said. “Scott stood in her place as the parent away from home.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the Comet team spent the night in the bus near the interchange. A farmer living nearby with a plow supplied the players with food and water in the morning until the bus was freed. It finally reached the Mayville campus about 11 a.m.

The final tally: 29 hours, two innings and one big assist.

“It could have ended a lot worse than it did,” Kjerstin Bakke said.


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia