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Walk-off sacrifice fly sends Dickinson back to the state championship finals

The Midgets return to the state championship in back-to-back years after downing Jamestown 5-4.

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Dickinson are onto the final game of the NDHSAA state tournament after their 5-4 walk-off victory over the hard-tooth Jamestown on Friday, June 3.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press
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JAMESTOWN — The semi-final game of the NDHSAA softball state tournament between Dickinson and Jamestown was a harrowing experience for spectators, players and coaches. Two teams, each worthy of a championship game appearance, displayed the very best of high school athletics as they battled until the bitter end.

In the end it was the Midgets’ who would be victorious, punching their ticket back to the state championship courtesy of a walk-off 5-4 win. The Midgets didn't hold a lead in the game until the walk-off — but for them it was an inevitable.

Senior Kali Kubas, who led the team in hits on the day, would go 2-for-3 at the plate before being called upon to supply the sacrifice fly needed to bring Taya Hopfauf across the plate and in so doing earn the go-ahead run in the final inning of a dog fight semi-final pairing.

“I knew that I just needed to put the bat on the ball and it was as simple as that,” Kubas said. “We’ve been in this situation a couple times this season and I am pretty comfortable and I trust our team. We have solid defense and I knew our hitting was going to come around.”

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On third base, Taya Hopfauf readily awaiting her opportunity to score the go-ahead run to win the game.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

The Blue Jays started strong on offense, with sophomore Makenna Nold ripping a grand slam hit over the left field fence to quickly put Dickinson on their heels. Cool heads would prevail as the team slowly chipped away at the deficit, starting when Baylee Berg singled on a hard ground ball for two RBIs to get the ball rolling in the bottom of the second.

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Baylee Berg hits a two-RBI single in the second inning to put Dickinson on the scoreboard.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Senior Mataya Mortensen reached her pitch count quickly and would see Dickinson go the bullpen by the third inning. Ava Jahner, the winning pitcher for the Midgets, switched from first base to the circle and put in a solid “1,2,3” inning right out of the gate.

“It was a great feeling to get the win,” Jahner said. “I knew that my team was behind me if they gave any hits, so it's nice knowing they have my back.”

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Ava Jahner in the circle with shortstop Kali Kubas having her back.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Dickinson would inch their way into a tied game by the bottom of the fourth, with a chance to take the lead with bases loaded — a chance Jamestown's relief pitcher Nold would shut down with strong velocity and movement on a string of pitches that closed the door on a Midgets' rally.

The fifth and sixth innings would come and go with neither side able to secure hits. The looming seventh and final inning began and it appeared to the hushed crowds that it could go into extra innings— Dickinson had other plans.

Jamestown would start the show in the final inning, securing a base hit. The pressure was on but the Midgets would regroup and recover after a Jahner strikeout left the runner stranded.

It would be up to the Dickinson to end the game in regulation.

After being initially walked, Hopfauf found herself on the hot corner from a deep fly ball double courtesy of Mortensen, who previously struggled at bat all day. The stage was set for Midgets' No. 5 hole Jahner, but she would be intentionally walked with Jamestown fully aware of her clutch hits — and in hopes of setting up a double play opportunity.

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Mataya Mortensen resting on second base after hitting a double to put Taya Hopfauf in scoring position.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Kubas came off deck and stepped into the batters box before delivering a beautifully timed fly ball deep to send Hopfauf across the home plate and the crowds to their feet as Dickinson flooded the field.

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“Like I told you yesterday, Jamestown is a heck of a team. They compete all the way through, they don't roll over and they gave us the best game of the year,” head coach Amanda Mickey said. “ I knew it was going to be just like how it will be for us tomorrow, but I am glad we are the one going to the state title game tomorrow instead of Jamestown.”

The stage is set for a rematch of last year's championship game as the Bismarck Demons will face the Midgets for the crown. The last time the two teams met was in the Western Dakota Association final in Bismarck a week ago. Dickinson won 4-2.

The championship game will begin at 3 p.m. central on Saturday, June 4.

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Ava Jahner and Mataya Mortensen working together for a 1-3 out.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

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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