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Sacred Heart baseball tournament: Knights hit their way to title

At least for one day, wood baseball bats have trumped their aluminum counterparts. Playing against two metal bat-wielding Minnesota teams Saturday at the Sacred Heart tournament, Grand Forks Central opted to use wood bats per its usual North Dako...

Central baseball
Grand Forks Central first baseman Stephan Holtz eyes the ball as Northern Freeze's Jared Nelson slides into first base during the first inning Saturday afternoon during the Sacred Heart High School Varsity Baseball Tournament in East Grand Forks. Herald photo by Sarah Kolberg.

At least for one day, wood baseball bats have trumped their aluminum counterparts.

Playing against two metal bat-wielding Minnesota teams Saturday at the Sacred Heart tournament, Grand Forks Central opted to use wood bats per its usual North Dakota rules.

It didn't appear, however, that the Knights were at any sort of disadvantage.

Central racked up 14 hits and catcher Alex Lazur went 5-for-5 and drove in seven runs as the Knights beat the Northern Freeze 15-10 in the championship game at Stauss Park.

Central defeated Northern Freeze in the tournament's championship game for the second straight year.

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Central second baseman Casey Purpur, who had three hits including a double, said his team wasn't bothered by using wood bats.

"I guess (using metal bats) is a little advantage, but I thought we handled it well," said Purpur, who was also 2-for-4 in Central's 8-1 win over East Grand Forks Sacred Heart in Saturday morning's semifinal.

After letting an early 8-0 lead slip into an 8-8 tie, Central scored four runs in the fifth inning and three more in the sixth to pull away from the Northern Freeze.

In the fifth, Central scored all four runs with two outs. The inning picked up when Purpur and Lazur each singled. David Nelson followed with a triple to left field to score Purpur and Lazur. Nelson's sinking liner skipped under the glove of a diving left fielder.

Central third baseman Brady Johnson followed with a run-scoring single to push Central's lead to 12-8.

In the bottom of the sixth -- after the Northern Freeze cut the Knights lead to 12-10 -- the bottom half of Central's lineup keyed insurance runs.

Matt Fuka, Jason Worden and Gage Salquist each walked to start the inning. Purpur then drove in Fuka with a sacrifice fly to left field. Lazur followed with his sixth and seventh RBIs of the day on a double to the right-centerfield gap.

"Up and down the order, we were putting a charge into the ball," Central coach Mike McNamara said. "We're pretty lucky in that of our 12 guys, nine play legion baseball. These guys play a lot of baseball. They've been playing legion for the past few years, and for the most part, have been playing against players older than them. Now, they're playing against their peers. You're seeing that with a bunch of these guys batting around .400."

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Central was able to survive, despite walking 10 batters and committing four errors.

The Knights built an 8-0 edge through three innings, but the Northern Freeze charged back with four runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth.

Jamison St. Germain scored two runs with a single to highlight the fourth inning, while the Northern Freeze strung together five singles to key the fifth inning.

Davis Mills and Adam Wojciechowski led the Northern Freeze offense. Both players were 2-for-3, while Mills had a triple.

In the third-place game, Sacred Heart's Corey Roach doubled to drive in Zak Kuznia with the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Eagles clipped Mayville-Portland-Clifford-Galesburg 11-10.

Roach finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and a triple.

In the fifth-place game, East Grand Forks Senior High shook off a 7-run first inning to come-from-behind and take a 15-13 victory over North Border.

Hunter Aubol paced the Green Wave going 4-for-5 with two doubles. Jordan Osmundson, Darrin Hager, Tanner Dahlen and Mike Aubol each added three hits.

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"We started a few of our younger pitchers to give them a chance," Senior High coach Garret Hjelle said. "We're trying to see where everyone fits in here early in the season. Our bats, though, were definitely doing well. Our last couple of games, we haven't felt comfortable at the plate. But this weekend, up and down the lineup, we hit it hard all over the field."

Central baseball
Grand Forks Central's Alex Lazur is tagged out by Northern Freeze's Jared Nelson, 14, while running to second base during the third inning Saturday afternoon during the championship game of the Sacred Heart High School Varsity Baseball Tournament in East Grand Forks. Herald photo by Sarah Kolberg.

Related Topics: PREP SPORTS
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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