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Published May 25 2011

Kindred, Central Cass each win to force third game in Region 1 baseball championship series

KINDRED, N.D. – The North Dakota Class B, Region 1 baseball tournament is down to one game, winner-take-all.

Kindred and Central Cass split a pair of games Tuesday night to send the best-of-3 championship series to a decisive final game at Kindred High School.

The Vikings took advantage of five Squirrels errors to secure a 14-7 win in Game 1. Central Cass used everything in its arsenal to scratch out a 6-4 win in 10 innings in Game 2.

The teams will play again Thursday at Kindred High School with a state tournament berth on the line.

“We always keep our heads up,” Central Cass left fielder Drew Nicklay said. “We know we can do it. We just have to stay positive.”

“If we come serious on Thursday, we have a good chance to win,” Kindred right fielder and pitcher Daniel Julson said. “We can’t be thinking ahead too much about anything because we know Casselton has a great team.”

The Vikings appeared poised to punch their tickets to state following their big win in the opening game.

Kindred took a 1-0 lead in Game 2 on a sacrifice fly by Austin Dahlgren off Central Cass starting pitcher Jon Lubbers, who was fresh off five innings of relief in a 3-2 12-inning win against Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page on Monday.

However, Lubbers settled down and kept Kindred from breaking the game open with a solid fastball, and a mix of breaking pitches that kept the Vikings off balance.

The Squirrels took a 2-1 lead on an RBI double by right fielder Chad Rehovsky in the top of the third.

“I have to give props to Jon Lubbers,” Central Cass coach Justin Fletschock said. “He threw five innings yesterday, and then threw the first seven today. I know his arm wasn’t feeling good. But he went out there and gutted it up. He has done that a lot.”

Lubbers kept Kindred off the scoreboard until Julson belted a two-run home run over the right-field wall in the bottom of the fourth to tie the score at 3-3.

The Vikings stranded runners on second and third in the sixth, and left runners on first and second in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

Nicklay put the Squirrels ahead 5-3 with a two-run single in the 10th.

He had struggled at the plate early in the year, but has now come alive down the stretch.

Nicklay went 3-for-8 with three RBI on Tuesday. All of his RBIs came in the Game 2.

“Finally, I fixed my swing a little bit and I’ve been hitting the ball pretty good now,” Nicklay said. “I started out striking out every other at-bat. I go out and get a hit and just keep it going.”

Julson, the Vikings’ dangerous leadoff hitter, belted his second home run of the game to spark Kindred’s offense in the bottom of the 10th. Julson also pitched seven innings of solid relief after starter Dahlgren was lifted early in the fourth.

Dahlgren allowed three earned runs on three hits in three-plus innings.

Julson struck out five and allowed three hits in his time on the mound. His only hiccup came in the 10th when Central Cass loaded the bases with no outs to set up Nicklay’s game-winning hit.

After Julson’s solo shot, Kindred loaded the bases in the bottom of the 10th.

Squirrels reliever Mitch Scheer induced a ground ball to end the game.

“Mitch Scheer at the end of the game stepped up big,” Fletschock said. “He hasn’t pitched a lot of innings, probably only about four or five this year. But he stepped up.”

Both teams now turn their attention to Game 3. Central Cass has not been part of a state title since Casselton won it in 1954. Kindred has never won a state championship.

The Vikings still have a wealth of pitchers at their disposal for the final game. However, the Squirrels will need to piece their pitching game plan together after burning through seven pitchers in the first two games on Tuesday.

Confidence remains high on both teams.

“We’ve been on a pretty good winning streak (entering Tuesday),” Julson said. “We knew if we made it to the championship we would have a good chance, with the depth of our pitching, to go a long way.”

“I don’t think losing that first game was the worst thing in the world mentally,” Fletschock added. “It probably woke them up. Heading into Thursday, we’ll have to piece together a pitching staff somehow. Our top two guys have thrown a lot of innings. We’ll figure something out there. And we have to hit the ball.”

CC 002 100 000 3– 6 6 3

K 100 200 000 1– 4 9 1

Lubbers, Rademacher (8), Scheer (9) and Sundquist. Dahlgren, Julson (4) and Van Horn.

CC 050 000 2– 7 11 4

K 310 352 x–14 9 5

Holm, Sundquiest (4), Ebach (4), Reiniets (5) and Bresnahan. Cose and Van Horn.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com