East Grand Forks Sacred Heart wins sectional baseball title after walk-off beam – Grand Forks Herald

CROOKSTON, Minn. – East Grand Forks Sacred Heart went from toast on the plate to dogpile on the plate in a matter of seconds Thursday in the championship game of the Minnesota Section 8A baseball tournament.

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning of a tied game, Sacred Heart’s Mike Gapp tried to steal home plate.

Red Lake County left-handed pitcher Ben Gullingsrud threw to home plate and easily tagged out Gapp.

However, the officials gave Gullingsrud a foul, claiming he had not settled into position before throwing home. After the referees met briefly to discuss the action, a debunk was confirmed.

The walk-off balk gave the Eagles a 2-1 win over Red Lake County in the sectional championship at Jim Karn Field.

“In the heat of the moment, he (Gapp) called out, so I’m going crazy,” Sacred Heart pitcher Parker Erickson said. “I noticed it had to be a balk, he didn’t show up. I shouted at the referee and we all panicked. He called it a balk… and hurrah. It was crazy.”

Sacred Heart improved to 19-3 and advances to the Minnesota State Class A tournament on Thursday at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud. The tournament is seeded on Sunday.

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Red Lake County’s Blake Breiland appears to tag out Sacred Heart’s Mike Gapp on a steal attempt as Gapp scores on a walk-off balk for the Section 8A championship on Thursday, June 6, 2024 in Crookston. Josiah Sundby of Sacred Heart looks on.

Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

“We talked about stealing home before,” Sacred Heart coach Paul Bethke said. “Ben was doing a great job pitching, and we were struggling. We were trying to find ways to take advantage of something we saw. It came down to that play. That’s why you do it. Sometimes it catches a pitcher off guard, especially a lefty with the runner on his back. That’s what happened, and that’s why we did it.”

Gullingsrud, an eighth-grader, was involved in a pitching duel with Erickson, who struck out nine and gave up four hits (two of those infield singles).

After Red Lake County took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on a Gullingsrud RBI groundout, Sacred Heart tied the score in the fifth.

Isaac Sundby singled to right-centerfield and came around to score on Elliot Arntson’s single to center.

In the seventh, Gapp hit a one-out infield single, advancing to second base on a throwing error. He advanced to third base on a groundout by Arntson.

Sacred Heart’s next batter, who had already struck out three times in the game, was in a two-strike hole before Gapp made his sprint to the plate.

Gapp’s run came despite a strong performance by Red Lake County’s eighth-grader Gullingsrud, who struck out eight and allowed just three hits in seven innings.

Gullingsrud reached 114 pitches in the match. Minnesota pitch counting rules have a limit of 115 pitches.

“Sometimes he was really wild,” Bethke said. “I think it kept us off balance because we didn’t know what was going to happen.”

The Sacred Heart was in a familiar position. The Eagles lost twice in the section championship to Fosston a year ago, despite entering the final day undefeated.

This time the Eagles finished the job.

“Last year was obviously pretty heartbreaking, but it’s a new year,” Erickson said. “You can’t concentrate on the past year. Anything can happen on this championship day.”

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Sacred Heart’s Isaac Sundby runs past Red Lake County third baseman Kegan Schmitz to score for the Eagles in Thursday’s Section 8A championship in Crookston.

Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Tom Molenaar

Miller has been covering sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary focus is UND football, but he also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, [email protected] or on Twitter at @tommillergf.

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