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Knights reach title game

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- Ross Severson's pitching was shut down when the high school baseball season had barely begun, the result of a sprained ligament in his right elbow.

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- Ross Severson's pitching was shut down when the high school baseball season had barely begun, the result of a sprained ligament in his right elbow.

The right-hander has healed quickly enough to help Dakota Prairie reach the championship game of the North Dakota Class B state tournament, however.

Severson pitched five innings of relief here Friday, allowing three hits and two unearned runs. That sparked Dakota Prairie to a 3-2 win against Munich-Starkweather-Cando in the semifinals of the state tournament.

The Knights will meet defending state champion Minot Ryan for the title tonight following the 4:30 p.m. third-place game between Munich-S-C and Central Valley-Hillsboro. Ryan downed CV-Hillsboro 7-1 in the other semifinal game.

Severson suffered the injury pitching in Dakota Prairie's season-opening game in early April. "Right away, I was afraid the doctor was going to tell me I wouldn't be able to pitch again this season," Severson said.

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"But he told me I'd be back if I did my therapy. I did it -- I wanted to get back on the mound as soon as possible."

Severson didn't start pitching again until the week before the regional tournament. But he showed no rustiness in relief of fellow senior Seth Nichols, who started Friday and pitched two innings after going seven innings in a quarterfinal win against Grafton. The win for Severson was his third in four decisions.

"I expected (Nichols) to go a little longer," Severson said. "It was a little nerve-wracking to go in. But I sucked it up. I tried to throw strikes and let the defense do the work."

Said Knights coach Garrett Magner: "Ross might not be throwing quite as hard as he did before the injury. But he's doing well. He was huge for us. He and Seth have been pitching for me since they were eighth- or ninth-graders. This is what you hope for, to pitch in the big show. And they're doing a good job."

"Munich is a good club. We expected it to be a one-run game."

Munich-S-C scored unearned runs in the fifth and sixth innings to pull within 3-2. With Magicians on second and third in the sixth, Severson got out of the jam with a strikeout, then retired M-S-C in order in the seventh.

Dakota Prairie scored twice in the first, with Braydon Gourneau singling in the first run and Tyler Luehring knocking in the second with a ground out. Nichols took advantage of an M-S-C error to in the third to score for the second time and make it 3-0. Losing pitcher Travis Beck allowed only three baserunners over the final four innings, two of whom were erased with double plays.

"Travis started slow," M-S-C coach Adam Wirth said. "He couldn't find his curve right away. When that's working, he's tough. And it came around for him."

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Minot Ryan 7, Central Valley-Hillsboro 1: There were no comebacks this time for CV-Hillsboro, which had rallied to win each of its previous three games. And Brooks Backes was a big reason for that.

That left-hander struck out 12 while limiting the Valiants to a pair of hits, by Nick Proznik and Brian Smelden. Central Valley-Hillsboro did show life in the sixth, loading the bases and scoring once before Jake Olsen lined out to end the inning.

"These kids have had that never-say-die mentality," CV-H coach Nathan Walsh said. "In the sixth, I felt maybe if we could get one big hit, we'd get momentum. And Jake hit it hard, but right at them.

"And that kid (Backes) is top notch, a hard good pitcher. His pitches were really breaking."

Backes is 4-0 in the state tournament, including getting the win in the 2007 state championship game. Even with the high-strikeout, low-hit totals, the senior wasn't at his best, as he issued nine walks.

"Brooks had a lot of strikeouts, but his pitch count (127) was high," Ryan coach Bryan Kramer said. "That's kind of like he's pitched all year. He gets a lot of strikeouts, but gets in out of trouble. He tried to be a little too fine. But tonight he was still pretty doggone good.

"He's pretty good when he gets here at the state tournament. The switch goes on and he takes it to a higher level."

Ryan never trailed after scoring twice in the bottom of the first. The Lions added one in the second, then broke it open with a four-run fourth highlighted by Ben Kramer's two-run double.

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Grafton 9, Velva-Drake 1: Alex Martinez and Sam Tweten combined for a no-hitter in the consolation semifinals. Because of rain, the tournament started late Friday and consolation games were shortened to five innings.

Martinez threw the first four innings, striking out five and allowing an unearned run. Tweten threw the final inning, striking out one.

The pitchers also played key roles in the offense. Martinez was 2-for-3 with two doubles, driving in three runs. Tweten, pinch-hitting for Martinez in the top of the fifth, singled to drive home two runs.

Garet Molde, Chad Demers and Alex Gaustad also had two hits apiece for the Spoilers.

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