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Knights’ road to redemption Belfield/South Heart Legion in tournament final four

A chance at redemption is never guaranteed in sports, especially for the senior athletes — but for some Knights players, it's an opportunity on Thursday.

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Preston Walter on the mound. (Josiah C. Cuellar/The Dickinson Press)

Head coach of the Belfield/South Heart Knights, Kurt Silbernagel, wants nothing more than to see his older players' years of hard work come to fruition in the American Legion Class B district one tournament.

After the American Legion Post 144 team split their final double header of the season with the Hettinger Bears they found themselves taking the fifth seed for the double elimination tourney.

The tournament began early on Tuesday, July 20, in Hazen, playing out over five games on Day 1 alone. The first opening pitch was at 7:30 p.m. MST, featuring the Knights versus the host city's Hazen Astros, American Legion Post 189.

It was a close game that came down to a seventh inning walk-off for the Astros. The Belfield/South Heart team claimed the first run and grabbed a tie with two runs in the seventh, but five errors would cost them their first loss.

“They nipped us in the first round game on that walk off. It was an error on first baseman, the ball dribbled out onto right field after a chopper to first and the kid from second scored to beat us the first time around,” Silbernagel said.

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Shortstop Xander Krump completes a pickoff. (Josiah C. Cuellar/The Dickinson Press)

The losers bracket was played out Wednesday with only two remaining teams, including the Knights after they routed the Beulah Cyclones 12-1.

“We went in with confidence… We were facing arguably two of the best pitchers in the region. Aaron Ripplinger started the game and we beat him up in two innings and they yanked him and they brought in Trapper Skalsky," Silbernagel said. "In the past, our kids have the attitude that we are beat before we even start when going against a dominant pitcher like Skalsky, but we didn't do that. We went in with confidence.

“On the other side of it, Preston Walter probably pitched one of his best games in his career. We made a couple errors and if it wasn't for those errors prolonging the game, he probably could have thrown a no-hitter. One of the best I ever coached, but yesterday he was dialed in.”

Hazen also found themselves in the losing bracket after being defeated by the No. 1 seed team Garrison in game four of the tourney. The loser bracket first game was against Washburn and Bismarck Capitals B side, which ended 19-10 in Washburn's favor. The Astros, as well as Washburn, played their third game of the tournament against each other with Hazen standing on top with a 13-3 result.

On day three, Garrison would prove to be the last team standing in the winners bracket after defeating Hettinger 8-1.

Hettinger will now face whichever team wins between the Belfield/South Heart and Hazen teams. With the game underway, Silbernagel spoke wholeheartedly of his team’s ability to go all the way — especially considering some key players were back in rotation.

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For the Knights, confidence and attentiveness will make the difference.

“We are a completely different team when Tanner Jarret and Austin Buckman are there. They fill in gaps in our defense… Plus, having them in the batting order was huge, added two great bats to our lineup, ” Silbernagel said. “I coached these kids since they were in grade school and I know we have a tendency to relax after a lead... Yesterday was the first time when they did not relax after we got a lead. They kept that edge, they kept that focus till that last out. It's too bad that at the end of their careers as seniors that we have finally figured it out but it's not over and we still got a shot.”

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Head Coach Kurt Silbernagel fist bumps Preston Walter. (Josiah C. Cuellar/The Dickinson Press)

Related Topics: BASEBALL
Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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