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Huge sixth inning sends Perham to section final

Dylan Kruzel is congratulated at home after hitting a two-run home run in Perham's nine-run sixth inning Tuesday. Robert Williams/FOCUS

PERHAM — Park Rapids (21-3) was six outs away from a berth in the Section 8AA baseball final, but the Perham Yellowjackets (20-2) exploded for a nine-run sixth inning to bury Panther hopes in a 10-3 victory between the section’s top seeds Tuesday afternoon at Krueger Field.

Perham used small ball, a long ball and got some aid from Panther fielding in the Yellowjackets’ big inning to come back from a 3-1 deficit.

"Everybody was a little tense," said Perham second baseman Mason Malikowski. "We were forgetting to have fun for awhile. It's never been too stressful this season. We've always gotten runs when we needed it. I think that's going to continue on to state."

A Malikowski bunt got the madness started. What should have been a routine sacrifice turned into Perham’s second run when the throw to the first base bag got away allowing Austin Erickson to score from second base and cut Park Rapids lead to 3-2.

"Anybody on this team can bunt," Malikowski said. "I've just been lucky to have been in the situations."

Erickson scored twice in the sixth inning, the first and last of Perham’s runs.

Pinch runner Alex Tostenson scored the tying run on a RBI single by Jake Lueders. Malikowski scored the go-ahead run and eventual game-winner on a Drew Bade wild pitch to put Perham up 4-3. 

The inning was highlighted by a two-run home run by Dylan Kruzel to give Perham an 8-3 advantage. Pinch runner Sam Pirrotta scored on a Malikowski single for Perham’s ninth run.

A Lueders fielders' choice scored Erickson for Perham’s 10th run to tally two RBIs in the sixth inning for Lueders.

Kruzel gave Perham an early 1-0 lead in the first with a two-out RBI single scoring Tanner Carlson.

Park Rapids answered in the second to tie the game when Rilee Johnson tripled to lead off the second inning and scored on a Jon Burlingame single to take a 1-0 lead.

Bade and Rilee Johnson had back-to-back singles in the third inning and Bade scored on the double steal of home after Johnson’s sprint to the second base bag drew a throw from Perham catcher CJ Mulcahy.

Back-to-back doubles by Bade and Johnson made the score 3-1 in the sixth inning.

Johnson was 3-3 at the plate with a single, double, triple and one RBI.

Mulcahy, Kruzel and Erickson had two hits each for Perham. Kruzel led with three runs batted in.

Josh Still pitched a complete game for his second victory of the playoffs for Perham. Still allowed three runs on seven hits. He fanned eight batters and walked none.

Bade took the loss in relief for the Panthers, the third of four pitchers in the game for Park Rapids.

Perham advances to the Section 8AA title game undefeated where they will await the winner of Park Rapids and Hawley.

The Nuggets advanced with a 2-1 victory over East Grand Forks and 12-7 win over Roseau.

East Grand Forks blanked Fergus Falls 10-0 earlier in the day.

The Section final will be played at Washington Park in Detroit Lakes Thursday, June 5. Hawley and Park Rapids square off at noon with the second game beginning at 2:30. The winner will need to beat Perham twice to advance.

Two of Park Rapids’ three losses have come at Perham this season.

PR    011 001 0 —  3 7 4

PER 100 009 x — 10 8 2

PR Tyler McCollum, Jordan McCollum, Drew Bade (LP), Jon Burlingame and Brad Eischens.

PER Josh Still (WP) and CJ Mulcahy. HR: PER Dylan Kruzel. 3B PR Rilee Johnson.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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