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Vikings, Tigers advance to small-school semi-finals

FRANKCLAY — Poor field conditions in Bismarck and in Caledonia forced both scheduled first-round games in the MAAA Small-School Conference Tournament to be moved to Frankclay Field. The Bismarck Indians and Valley Vikings had earned the right to play their respective first-round match-ups on their home fields, based on their regular season standings, but instead had to settle for a neutral site.

The Vikings reserved their place in the semi-final round, after enduring a stiff challenge from the Kingston Cougars. The Indians weren’t quite as lucky, however, as the Arcadia Valley Tigers built a lead that was too much for Bismarck to overcome.

Valley 8, Kingston 4

The opening game of the tourney featured a battle between two excellent left-handed pitchers in Valley’s Blake Jones, and Kingston’s Matt Pinson. The two hurlers hooked up earlier this season in Cadet, with the Vikings picking up a 9-3 win. Monday’s contest was a close one, until the Valley offense broke out in the sixth inning to take an 8-4 victory.

Both pitchers escaped trouble during the first two innings of the game. Jesse Henry and Cody Portell had back-to-back singles in the top of the first inning, but the Cougars were unable to score. Chris Pierce and Jones each reached base in the bottom of the first inning, but Pinson got the next two batters out to escape any further danger.

Valley broke into the scoring column in the third inning. The Vikings’ first three hitters all had singles to load the bases. Michael Dodd slapped a two-run single to give Valley a 2-0 lead. Nathan Owens scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0. Dodd scored the fourth run of the inning when he and Justin Province executed a double steal.

The Cougars responded with a run in the fourth inning. Pinson reached on an error to lead off the inning. Pinson moved into scoring position on a hit by C.J. Bone, and scored on an RBI single by Brandon Murseal.

Kingston cut its deficit to 4-3 in the fifth inning on the strength of a two-out rally. Jordan Kincaid and Pinson singled. Bone followed with a walk to load the bases. Freshman Justin King drove in two runs with a single to center field. The Cougars stranded the tying run on third base.

The Vikings were able to pull away in the sixth inning by scoring four more runs, with the help of two errors. Valley had the bases loaded for Craig Fenton, who had struck out in his first three plate appearances against Pinson. Fenton cleared the bases with a triple to right-center field, building his club’s advantage to 7-3. An error allowed Fenton to score later in the inning.

Kincaid led off the Cougars’ seventh inning with a double. Kenny Henry pinch-ran for Kincaid, and scored on another hit by Bone. Jones came back to retire the last two hitters he faced, preserving the win.

Both Jones and Pinson pitched complete games. Jones allowed 11 hits and one walk, while picking up eight strikeouts. Pinson gave up 12 hits and three walks, while also fanning eight and hitting one batter.

Kingston Coach Gary Harris was especially pleased with the play of his freshmen in the losing effort. “We started four freshmen, and they stepped up big”, said Harris. “They had six hits for us tonight”.

The Vikings (7-5) will face Valle in the second semi-final game today. The contest is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in Ste. Genevieve. Kingston (0-14) will play its next game on Monday at home against Steelville.

Arcadia Valley 13, Bismarck 9

The Bismarck Indians and Arcadia Valley Tigers hooked up in the nightcap of the tournament double-header. The Tigers manhandled the Indians in the first meeting of the meeting between these teams, winning 13-0. The Indians returned the favor last Friday with a narrow 2-1 triumph. In a game that took more than three hours to complete, the Tigers survived a late inning scare to win the rubber match, 13-9.

Two sophomores began the game on the mound as Bismarck’s Sam Fisher squared off against Arcadia Valley’s Stephen Blankenship. The Tigers filled the bases in the first inning with one out, but the Indians turned a tremendous double play to get out of the jam.

The Tigers broke onto the scoreboard in the top of the second inning. David Blankenship led off the frame with a walk, and eventually scored on an RBI fielder’s choice by Abe Warren. Warren scored the second run of the game on an RBI single by Brandon Granger. Jon Hankins followed with an RBI single to bring Granger home for a 3-0 lead.

Arcadia Valley picked up two more runs in the third inning. John Inman had a leadoff walk, and scored on a hit by David Blankenship. Grant Gardner added an RBI fielder’s choice to put the Tigers ahead 5-0.

Bismarck responded in the bottom of the third inning. Adam Randazzo led off with a single, and scored when Mike Randazzo crushed a pitch well over the left field fence for a two-run homer. Mike Randazzo finished the game with six RBI’s to lead all players.

The Tigers answered quickly with three more tallies in the fourth inning. Granger, who was 4-5 in the game, reached on an error to start things off. David Glaskey hammered an RBI double to score Granger. Glaskey then crossed the plate on a single by Inman. Stephen Blankenship added a sacrifice fly to make it an 8-2 game.

Granger blasted a home run to left field in the fifth inning to give the Tigers a seven run cushion. A pair of Bismarck errors helped Arcadia Valley score three more times in the sixth inning. With a 12-2 lead, the Tigers felt safe, but then things began to get crazy.

Mike Randazzo hit a two-run double in the bottom half of the sixth to make it a 12-4 contest. Stephen Blankenship scored on a ground out from Gardner in the seventh to give the Tigers yet another insurance run.

The Indians made things very interesting before everything was said and done. Blankenship retired the first two hitters he faced, and Bismarck was down to its last out. Kevin Randazzo drew a two-out walk to bring Matt Jackson to the dish.

Jackson struck out on ball three in the dirt. The Tigers were leaving the field in celebration, thinking the game had concluded, but Jackson was scurrying down to first base. The umpires convened on the field and ruled that Jackson was entitled to first base, and the game continued.

An error allowed Randazzo and Jackson to score, making it a 13-6 game. Adam Randazzo walked to load the bases, and Sam Fisher followed with an RBI single to bring the Indians to within a 13-7 score. Mike Randazzo drove in two more runs with a single, and suddenly Bismarck was only down by four. Blankenship finally closed out the game, when he snared a hard hit ball off the bat of Craig Cummings.

Blankenship went the distance and picked up the win for Arcadia Valley, allowing 12 hits and four walks, while recording 10 strikeouts. Fisher took the loss for Bismarck, allowing five runs in 2 1/3 innings.

Arcadia Valley (8-9) advances to face West County in the semi-final round. That contest will begin at 4:30 p.m. The Tigers are the only team that has defeated West County this season. Bismarck (6-9) is scheduled to face Viburnum at home on May 13.

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