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GLENDIVE, Mont. – The NIACC baseball team made history on Sunday.
NIACC scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and topped Dakota County Technical and Community College 4-1 to claim the North Plains District championship and advance to the NJCAA Division II World Series for the first time.
NIACC (29-16) plays at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the opening round of the national tournament in Enid, Okla.
“Give all the credit to our players,” NIACC coach Travis Hergert said. “They did a fantastic job.
“It wasn’t easy. Dakota County played an unbelievable ball game. We just continued to grind and grind and grind. We did a great job getting that 3-spot (in the eighth). It was a heck of an at-bat from Jake Adams and Tanner Unkel getting the 2-run single was huge. That gave us a little bit of a cushion.”
In the eighth inning, Adams, a freshman who prepped at Newman Catholic, plated Drew Verstegen with a sacrifice fly to center field to give NIACC a 2-1 lead. The sophomore Unkel drove in two runs later in the inning to give the Trojans a couple of insurance runs.
“I was looking for something to hit in the zone,” Adams said. “I got it to a 3-2 count, but I expected to get something off speed and I just wanted to get the job done. Luckily, I did.”
Lucas Bakker then pitched a scoreless ninth inning as the Trojans turned an around the horn double play (Alex Stuart to Brett Guba to Max Waletich) to lift them into the World Series for the first time in school history.
Bakker (9-1) pitched a complete-game 2-hitter with 10 strikeouts, one walk and one hit batter in winning for the 16th time in his career.
“We’re blessed with good pitching and it starts with him,” Hergert said. “He’s won big ball games for us all year long. He’s phenomenal.”
Bakker allowed an unearned run in the first inning and held DCTC scoreless over the next eight innings. He set DCTC down in order in the second, fourth and eighth innings and the Trojans turned double plays in the fifth and ninth innings.
After falling behind in the first inning, NIACC tied the contest at 1-1 with a single run in the third inning. Alex Stuart plated Robert Swenson with a sacrifice fly to center field.
The game remain tied until the eighth inning when the Trojans broke through with three runs to take the lead.
A leadoff single in the ninth by DCTC, a fielder’s choice and the Stuart to Guba to Waletich double play later and the Trojans punched their ticket to Enid, Okla., and the NJCAA Division II World Series.
“It’s a great feeling,” Bakker said. “It’s unbelievable that we’ve come this far.”
“We’re playing our best baseball right now. I’m really proud of the team.”
Hergert said making it to the national tournament is always a goal for a team at the beginning of the season.
“We got this thing rolling in the regional tournament,” Hergert said, “and you could see it. We had a shot, we had a shot.
“Now, we believe. My feet haven’t touched the ground yet.”
NIACC 4, DCTC 1
DCTC 100 000 000 – 1 2 1
NIACC 001 000 03x - 4 4 2
Lourey (10K, 5BB), Matt Buss (7) (0K, 3BB), Klinkhammer (8) (0K, 0BB) and Gunderson, Lowe (3). Lucas Bakker (10K, 1BB) and Robert Swenson. W – Bakker. L – Buss. Multiple hits – Max Waletich (N). Multiple RBIs – Tanner Unkel (N).
NIACC Sports Information Director/Recreation Center Coordinator