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Sacred Heart is headed to state

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Sacred Heart junior Evan Sczepanski slides in behind Fosston catcher Hunter Kroening and scores in the fourth inning of the Section 8A championship game Thursday at Bemidji State University. (Jillian Gandsey | Forum News Service)2 / 2

BEMIDJI—Two batters into the baseball game, Fosston already had runners on first and third with nobody out. But Sacred Heart pitcher Brenden Bethke wasn't yet worried about having an off game.

"I just had to get the butterflies out of my system,'' the Eagles' junior right-hander said. "Once the game got going I wasn't nervous. I knew I had a good defense behind me.''

Bethke settled down quickly. He got out of the inning without allowing a run and went on to pitch a 2-hitter as the Eagles beat Fosston 3-1 in the championship of the Section 8A high school tournament Thursday.

Sacred Heart takes a 15-5 record to next week's Class A state tournament at Chaska. Defending section champion Fosston closed with a 16-8 record.

Bethke got out of the first on a line out and two strikeouts. He didn't allow a hit until Kyle Jacobson doubled to deep left field leading off the fifth. Jacobson advanced to third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch. Brett Sundquist had the only other Greyhounds hit.

Bethke finished with 10 strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous when he walked the first two, but I figured it was just energy, that he was trying too hard,'' his father, Eagles coach Paul Bethke, said. "He settled down and that was one of his better games of the season.''

Sundquist allowed only five hits in taking the mound loss. But three came in the first inning.

Cullen Rohrich reached on a 1-out single, then scored when Bethke doubled to deep left field. Will Rohrich's ground-ball single to left drove Bethke home.

"Brett threw really well,'' Fosston coach Ryan Hanlon said. "He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win.

"He only gave up five hits, but they were able to string three of them together. That was the difference. We had opportunities; we just weren't able to come up with key hits.''

Sam Gapp's run-scoring single in the fourth gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead.

"I thought it would be more like a 7-5 or an 8-6 game,'' Paul Bethke said. "Fosston is such a good hitting team. And we've been doing better lately on offense.''

Instead, it turned into a pitchers' dual in which Brenden Bethke got stronger as the game progresses. He retired the final seven batters he faced, including the final two and four of the last five on strikeouts.

As a result, Sacred Heart is headed to the state tournament for the first time since 2006.