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Junior district tournament: Alex Black tops EGF in 7-5 roller coaster for state berth

All season, the mantra for the Alexandria Black junior legion baseball team has been "peak at playoffs." On Friday, they peaked. Alex prevailed in a back-and-forth battle against East Grand Forks at Knute Nelson Ballpark, capturing the final stat...

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Alexandria Black's Andrew Revering follows through on a pitch during Friday's 7-5 win over East Grand Forks in the Junior Legion Division I Outstate Tournament at Knute Nelson Ballpark. Revering went six-plus innings from the mound and surrendered four runs (three earned) on eight hits while striking out seven. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)

All season, the mantra for the Alexandria Black junior legion baseball team has been “peak at playoffs.”

On Friday, they peaked.

Alex prevailed in a back-and-forth battle against East Grand Forks at Knute Nelson Ballpark, capturing the final state tournament spot up for grabs in the Division I Outstate Tournament with a 7-5 victory.

“This team has been just solid all year,” Alexandria head coach Lee Backhaus said. “My saying has always been, ‘Peak at the playoffs.’ I think we peaked at the playoffs.”

With Perham already into the tournament with a perfect 4-0 tournament record -- which included wins over both Alex Black and EGF -- Friday’s matchup determined who would join them in the state tourney’s 16-team field.

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East Grand Forks started on the right foot, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Julian Benson singled in Colton Dauksavage. The score held for several frames, not breaking until the bottom of the fourth.

“We did our same old thing where we kind of sit around for three innings, just trying to see where we sit with the game,” said Backhaus. “Finally, we turned it on a little bit.”

Alexandria posted three runs in the fourth frame. Riley Simonson was the first to cross home, scoring on a line-drive single by Dominic Schmidt. On the next pitch, Cody Richardson scampered home on a wild pitch, and Schmidt later came in on an error for a 3-1 game.

Meanwhile, Andrew Revering kept East Grand Forks quiet from atop the hill.

“I love pitching because you get to kind of control the game,” said Revering, who also celebrated his 17th birthday on Friday. “You just feel good when everyone’s behind you. I knew that they’d be there for me. … I had confidence in everyone.”

After surrendering the first-inning run, Revering settled in nicely. He worked a quick second and then escaped from jams in both the third and fourth frames. It allowed his offense to take the lead in the bottom of the fourth.

Trouble sprouted back up in the fifth, however. Evan Pederson scored from third on a two-out error in the fifth inning, trimming the Alex lead to 3-2. And in the sixth, Dauksavage clutched up for a two-out RBI single on a line drive right back up the middle, leveling the score at 3-3.

“(We) allowed them back into the game,” Backhaus said. “At this age level, it’s such a game of momentum.”

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But the swing didn’t affect Alexandria like it could have.

“We knew the whole game we had to hit,” said Revering. “It was going to come eventually because we stuck with it. We didn’t keep our heads down.”

The patience paid off.

Alex Black exploded in the bottom of the sixth, manufacturing four runs to seize control. Richardson scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch after reaching on a leadoff error. Later, Matthew Zick doubled to plate Kade Loge, and Zick came into score on a Kade Blankenship single that followed a Revering sacrifice fly.

“We all have confidence in ourselves because we’re all really good hitters, one through nine,” Revering said. “We know that we’ve hit really well before, so we know we can do it again. That’s what we think when we’re down.”

East Grand Forks gave one final push, a two-run rally in the seventh that cut the game to 7-5. But with the tying run at the plate, Simonson closed the door and clinched the save by inducing a game-ending groundout.

“It feels pretty good,” Revering said of the win. “I obviously want to play some more baseball. It’s only July. … It’s going to be fun at the state tournament.”

Alexandria has a quick turnaround, as state kicks off Monday, July 23, in Apple Valley. Alex Black was awarded the No. 5 seed in the East Region, setting up a 6:15 p.m. game against the West Region’s No. 4 in Lakeville North.

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“Nobody ever gets tired of going to state,” Backhaus said. “The kids deserve it. They’ve played well all year. … The next job that we have is to stay focused, keep the momentum in our dugout and make it happen.”

EGF 100 011 2 - 5 10 2

ALEX 000 304 X - 7 6 1

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING: Andrew Revering - W, 6+ IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO; Riley Simonson - S, 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO.

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE: Andrew Revering - 0-1, RBI, sac; Kade Blankenship - 2-4, RBI; Wyatt Snitker - 0-1, BB; Riley Simonson - 1-3, 1 run, K; Cody Richardson - 1-3, 2 runs, 2B; Kade Loge - 0-2, 1 run, BB, K; Dominic Schmidt - 1-3, RBI, 1 run; Tate Breitkreutz - 0-1, 1 run, 2 BB; Matthew Zick - 1-3, RBI, 1 run, 2B; Mark Urman - 0-2, 2 K.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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