Jon Ababiy, Sports Editor


“Unbelievable” is the way junior Lincoln Erne described the feeling of having the game winning double against the 6th ranked Forest Lake Rangers. Down 4-5 on the scoreboard and batting against one of the best pitchers in Minnesota, Erne took two strikes, then hit the ball deep, just a few feet short of the center fieldman’s glove, allowing two runners to come home and seal the win for the Bengals.

In the beginning of the game, Erne did not hit very well, but in the words of his teammate Sam Riola: “He came through for the team. It was really a big moment for us.”

The Rangers defeated the Bengals 6-4 yesterday, but the Bengals put that behind them, and gave the Rangers everything they had. Blaine was not even ranked; yet it finessed the Rangers in the times when it really mattered.

Things did not look well for the Bengals early: Blaine fell behind in the third at-bat when a Forest Lake hit a solo home run. Two silly errors didn’t help either, and one even allowed a Ranger runner to come home.

The Bengals first inning was unspectacular as well, and it quickly ended.

Forest Lake’s hitting in the second inning was weak. Blaine’s hitting got better, but every ball still seemed to find its way into Ranger glove.

Thankfully, the Rangers had another quick and quiet third inning. Reid Conlee awoke the Bengals from their hitting slumber with a double that brought speedster Tyler Reichenborn home. Lincoln Erne followed up with a pop fly RBI.

The Bengal outfield stepped up in the fourth inning. Bengal pitcher Alex Winslow struggled, but his outfield’s excellent play helped keep the score tied.

Blaine had an unimpressive time hitting in the fourth and fifth inning. The Bengals would often get two players on base and quickly get three outs.

This unimpressive play from the Bengals allowed the Rangers to pull ahead. Sloppy infield play in the fourth inning gave Forest Lake opportunities to score. Miscommunication allowed the Rangers to get two runs off of a silly error in the infield.

The Bengals pulled their pitcher, Alex Winslow, and put in senior Jackson Wuertz. He let in a run on one of his first pitches, but in a teaser of his later clutchness, he ended the inning with an impressive strikeout.

The scoreboard was 2-5 as the Bengals entered the 6th inning. Solid pitching from Wuertz kept the Rangers from getting another run, so it was up Blaine’s hitting to bring Blaine back in the lead.

The Bengals warmed up the inning with two singles. Forest Lake responded by pulling its pitcher, and bringing in their Division One bound pitcher in relief. He was off no help to the Rangers, and walked Kaden Elvidge.

Bases loaded, Tyler Reichenborn flexed his patience with the pitcher, earning a free walk to first and a runner home. The pitcher regained his confidence and struck out a Bengal hitter. Then, with bases loaded again, a simple bunt got Blaine another run.

With the Bengals one run away from tying, the crowd was electrified; even a few girls from the girls lacrosse team, fresh off a section final win, were there supporting the Bengals.

Erne then took his turn hitting. Two strikes from the pitcher made things even more suspenseful. Finally, he made contact with the ball, and instead of falling in a Forest Lake outfielder’s glove like it had done before, the ball fell a few feet short of the center fielder.

The runner at third base made a mad dash for home. He made it. 5-5. The runner behind him turned on the jets, capitalizing on Forest Lake’s slow play. When the runner was midway between third and home, the ball was finally thrown from the outfield.

It was a depressing throw. The runner easily made it to home.

Erne had made it count when it really counted.

Wuertz locked up the win for the Bengals in the 7th inning with some clutch pitching. As more outs were added to the scoreboard, the energy of the Bengal fan section grew and grew. A Wuertz pitch past the swing of a Ranger ended the game, leading the Bengal dugout to storm the field. The comeback had succeeded.

“After my hit when I was on first base, watching my teammates celebrate was an unbelievable feeling. I can’t describe it” said Erne, a veteran of the hockey State Tourney. This game was the stuff of childhood playing-in-the-backyard dreams. When down, the Bengals didn’t give up. Players like Erne played hard until the end…and together they made Blaine section champs for the first time in history.

This is the first time the Bengals have made it to the State Tournament.