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Paul Dirks had to dive back to first base on a pick-off play during Saturday's tournament game against Staples-Motley.

Pitching, defense lead baseball team to title game against Staples-Motley

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Jeremy Anderson said pitching would dictate the success of the Park Rapids baseball team this season.

The pitching staff delivered in the season openers Friday and Saturday as the Panthers claimed runner-up honors at the 15th annual Park Rapids Tournament.

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Park Rapids' pitching staff allowed only 13 hits and four earned runs while striking out 26 batters and walking only 11. Offensively, the Panthers had 20 hits but scored only six runs in three games in this eight-team wood bat tournament.

The Panthers opened with a 1-0 win over Crookston Friday night before advancing to the title game with a 3-2 win over Frazee Saturday. Park Rapids was denied the championship with a 5-2 loss in eight innings to Staples-Motley Saturday.

"Our pitchers got a lot of experience last year. It didn't surprise me that those guys pitched well, but I didn't expect them to hold the other teams to so few runs," said Anderson. "All the guys played well. They did all the stuff we stressed in practice. The pitchers threw strikes, we made the plays we needed to make and we made contact at the plate. It was a good weekend. Hopefully we can keep things rolling."

Panthers blank Crookston

Kevin McMorrow and Tucker Coborn combined on a three-hitter as the Panthers opened the tournament with a 1-0 win over Crookston.

The Panthers, who left eight runners on base through the first five innings, scored the game's only run in the sixth on walks to Cory Odland, Nick Belfiori and Jack Mercado and a single by Coborn.

McMorrow allowed three hits and struck out five over the first five innings for the win while Coborn didn't allow a hit and struck out two for the save.

Paul Dirks went 2 for 4 while Coborn and Dan Pike each went 2 for 3 to lead Park Rapids' six-hit attack.

Ricke shuts down Frazee

Dan Ricke threw a two-hitter to lead the Panthers past Frazee in the semifinals.

Ricke allowed two runs in the third, but allowed only three base runners the rest of the way in a complete-game victory. Ricke finished with 10 strikeouts and two walks.

The Panthers tied the game in the fifth on singles by Ricke and Levi Erickson and an RBI double by Dustin Martine.

Park Rapids won it in the bottom of the seventh on a single by Erickson, bunt singles by Martine and Dirks, and a single by Mercado.

Erickson and Martine had two hits each as the Panthers were held to seven hits.

Cardinals capture title

Staples-Motley won the tournament title by scoring three times in the eighth inning.

Park Rapids tied the game at 1-1 in the third when Dirks singled and scored on a two-out single by McMorrow.

The Panthers tied the game at 2-2 in the sixth when Ricke walked and scored on Odland's RBI double.

Two walks, a hit batter and two singles produced the winning runs for the Cardinals in the eighth.

Mercado took the loss, allowing two earned runs on seven hits and five walks over seven innings. Mercado struck out seven. Erickson allowed one run on one hit in relief.

Coborn and McMorrow had two hits each to lead a seven-hit attack.

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