Back-to-back homers help Red Sox advance to State â�?�?Aâ�?�? By Parker Knox
Sports Writer Who says lightning never strikes twice in the same place! Back-to-back home-run bolts out of the blue with two out in the top of the ninth inning by Jim McNaughton and Cole Knippling broke open a tense 2-2 tie in the district amateur�? championship game�? at Freeman Saturday.�? The Vermillion Red Sox then survived a potential�? rally by the Brandon Valley Merchants in the bottom of the ninth to win the district title, 5-2,�? and advance to the state â�?�?Aâ�? tournament. The Red Sox will play the Renner Roadrunners, a team with whom they split two games during the regular season, at 5 p.m. Saturday in Rapid City in the first round of the Class â�?�?Aâ�? state tourney. They will also play again Sunday, but they need win only one game this weekend to advance back to Mitchell for the second round of the state tourney the following week. The Red Sox had stranded 11�? men on base through eight innings. Although Josh Malenosky led off the ninth with a single, two outfield fly balls followed, and it appeared another runner would be left on base until McNaughton made sweet contact with a Bryce Ahrendt pitch and drove it high and far over the left-field wall for a stunning two-run homer. Red Sox fans in the stands and players in the dugout had not yet sat down when Knippling launched�? his moonshot over the fence�? in the deepest part of center field for a three-run lead. The bottom of the ninth started with shortstop Robin Chute making a â�?�?Web Gemâ�? play on a ground ball to get the first out. Aaron Bakken walked, and Adam Schroeder doubled, so Brandon Valley had men on second and third with one out and the tying run coming to the plate.�? But Heidesch, who held the Merchants to only six hits in his gutsy nine-inning complete-game effort, persuaded Eric Stowe to ground to third-baseman McNaughton, who made a great pickup to nail Stowe at first while the runners held their ground.�? Heidesch then finished the game with a lightning bolt of his own, sending a sizzling pitch on the outside corner�? past batter Todd Rickstein. He was already headed to the dugout before the umpire called it a game-ending third strike, and the Red Sox, after their most exhilarating wins of their 19-win season, were on their way to Rapid City where the Class â�?�?Aâ�? portion of the state amateur tourney opens this weekend. To say Heidesch had to work for his victory is an understatement.�? To say, however, that he frustrated Brandon Valley all afternoon is the truth. The Merchants left 15 men on base. Six times in nine innings they stranded at least two runners, and twice Heidesch set them down with the bases loaded. In the third, after Brandon Valley had taken a 2-1 lead, two walks and a single loaded the sacks, but Heidesch got an outfield fly ball off the bat of Schroeder to end the threat. In the fourth he struck out the final batter of the inning with two men in scoring position. Then in the fifth, the first two Merchants reached on a walk and a single. A strikeout gave Heidesch one out. Then Manager Kirk Sorenson ordered an intentional walk to load the bases and create a double-play possibility. Heidesch struck out Stowe for the second out and got a ground ball off Ricksteinâ�?�?s bat to leave the bags jammed. Sorensonâ�?�?s�? roll of the dice�? worked again in the very next inning.�? A two-out double by Charlie Magedanz was followed by an intentional pass to Nick Bruning, who had homered in the first inning. It worked again as Gary Walz flied out to left to end yet another Merchants threat. The Red Sox scored first when the gameâ�?�?s first batter, Brett Fischer, walked, went to third on Chuteâ�?�?s single, and scored on an infield grounder by Colby Lessmann. Down 2-1, the Sox tied the game in the fourth when Curt Truhe led off with a single, stole second and scored on Fischerâ�?�?s double. Despite all the baserunners and drama, there was no more scoring until Vermillionâ�?�?s back-to-back bombs in the ninth. It appeared in the top of the seventh that the Red Sox had taken a 3-2 lead. Chute, who had led off the inning with�? his 18th�? double of the summer, tried to score from third on a wild pitch and was ruled safe by the home-plate umpire. Brandon Valley protested vehemently, and a subsequent conference between the two umpires reversed the safe call, and Chute was ruled out for not sliding at the plate. Fischer, Chute, Knippling and Daschle Larsen had two hits each for the Red Sox. Ahrendt struck out seven and walked five while allowing 11 Red Sox hits. Like Heidesch, he worked out of countless sticky situations as the Sox left men stranded in seven of their nine innings. Heidesch fanned 11 and walked 10, two of them intentionally. Earlier in the week, the Red Sox defeated the Mitchell Mad Dogs, 4-2, to earn their championship game berth. Tyler Tasker threw seven innings for the win, and Brad Donovan pitched the final two frames for the save.�? Chute stroked a two-run double, Knippling had a double and a single, and Fischer had two hits.