Kegel Black Knights celebrate anniversary year with world championship

Written by Bob on August 10th, 2013

kegel.warne.safe.104web Kegel’s Mitch Warne slides safely into home plate with the winning run in the Black Knights 2-1 victory over the Winterset A’s in the NAFA AA-Major World Series Championship. Warne scored the game-winner on a wild pitch by A’s pitcher Marshall Kronk (45) in the bottom of the seventh. Photo By BOB OTTO

DES MOINES, Iowa – Year after unfailing year the Kegel Black Knights have fielded a men’s fastpitch softball team – this year marks their 30th anniversary.

And what better way to celebrate such a remarkable achievement than winning an international championship. The Black Knights of Fargo did just that late Friday night by defeating a tough band of Winterset, Iowa A’s 2-1 to claim the North American Fastpitch Association AA-Major World Series title.

For Matt Darling – selected the AA-Major Most Valuable Player – this was his first NAFA championship.

“This is so nice to come out here and win this,” said Darling who had retired for a couple years, but was added to Kegel’s roster for the tournament. “This division had a lot of good pitchers, so to put up some decent runs is a credit to everybody on our team.”

    PITCHERS DUEL

But getting runs in this game was hard to come by as the game settled into a pitchers duel between Kegel’s veteran Doug Hoffman and Winterset’s 19-year-old Marshall Kronk of Australia.

It was a match-up of two of the hardest throwing hurlers in the tournament. Hoffman went four innings and suffered only one damage when Kronk – big, strong and a dangerous power hitter – drilled a single into left field in the third inning, scoring Jason Darling, who reached on a single to give the A’s a 1-0 advantage.

But the inning was marred by an earlier contentious play at the plate. Shortstop and leadoff hitter, Bryce Kay, led off with a single and stole second. Then Darling lifted a fly ball to right that dropped in with Kay racing around third trying to score.

kay.out.85web Winterset A’s Bryce Kay tries to score but was called out on the tag by Kegel catcher Bob Lanoie. Photo By BOB OTTO

    CLOSE BUT OUT

Kay tried to slide around the sweeping tag of Kegel catcher Bob Lanoie, but was called out on the play – setting off a fiery dispute from Kaye and the A’s bench.

“It was a close play at home, but I thought I was safe,” said Kay, who played brilliantly on defense and was selected to the All-World team. “It would have been a different game (and) tied 2-2 (in the seventh) if the call was safe, but we didn’t hit and Kegel’s a real good team and ranked high (in the world).”

Kegel – ranked No. 8 by the International Softball Congress (ISC) – tied the game in their half of the third on a single by Matt Darling (2 for 4), scoring Mike Lewis, who walked and reached second on a passed ball.

    KEGEL CAPITALIZES

From then on the game turned into a stubborn battle between Kronk and Sebastian Gervasutti, who relieved Hoffman in the fifth. Gervasutti struck out seven and allowed but two hits over the final three innings, while Kronk struck out five and allowed one walk, a hit, and a wild pitch.

But those three sequences of events came back to haunt Kronk and the A’s, and decided the game in the bottom of the seventh.

After Kronk had struck out Bryan Erstad and Mike Lewis, Mitch Warne reached on a walk. Up to the plate stepped the dangerous Darling. He promptly singled, sending Warne racing to third.

Kronk, now facing shortstop Tom Owen, unleashed a wild pitch that sent Warne racing home and sliding across the plate with the winning run. A dejected Kronk walked off the field while Kegel began to celebrate their 30th anniversary World Series championship.

But Kronk – the most talented young hurler in the AA-Major – drew praise from Kegel manager Jon Lewis.

“We knew when they threw Kronk it would be a tough game all the way,” Lewis said. “This was a great pitchers duel. It looked to me that it would take somebody hitting a home run, or a mistake to decide it. You have to capitalize on the mistakes if there are any.”

Kronk – who was the unanimous selection for the Most Valuable Pitcher award with his 3-1 record – allowed the two runs on five hits, four walks and 11 strikeouts.

“Marshall was outstanding,” said Winterset manager Gary Christensen, who will now take the A’s to the ISC World Tournament with an opening game Saturday night. “This was an outstanding tournament for us. This is what we came for, to find out where we stand in the world with some of the better teams. “We have nothing to feel bad about.”

    ON TO THE ISC

Kegel, which lost a game in pool play, will also move on to the ISC World Tournament, and Lewis feels the AA-Major was good preparation to battle some of the world’s best teams.

“I think we jelled after the first couple of games,” he said. “This helps us go into the ISC and gives us a little confidence.”

Kegel (4-0) marched through the AA-Major bracket beating the Lacey A’s 9-1; West Fargo Knights 8-2 and Winterset 8-4 in the winners bracket final to reach the title game.

Winterset (3-2) knocked off two of the tournament’s favorites, New Image 2-1 and the Cal-State Builders, 2-1. Then after losing to Kegel in the winners bracket, they defeated Huron Wellness (5-2) in the losers bracket final, 6-2.

    TOUGH COMPETITOR

In that game, Kronk had to come out in the seventh inning from leg cramps. It appeared doubtful that he would be able to pitch the championship as he limped off. But he was adamant he would.

“It’s the championship,” he said before the game. “We don’t know what will happen in the ISC (World Tournament), but we have a chance to win this.”

Both Winterset and Kegel had several players selected to the All-World team. From Kegel, Tom Owen, Brian Lammers and Doug Hoffman were chosen. While Bryce Kay and Jason Darling made this select company.

Darling and Kronk received the most valuable player and pitcher awards. And Darling suspects a few more such honors will be coming Kronk’s way in the future.

“I give him a ton of credit,” Darling said. “He was on his game and his riser was moving. He’s a young kid and he’s got a bright future.”

    NEVER QUIT BALL CLUB

Kay, who has played for Winterset three years, said that he was proud of his team for its run in the AA-Major in which many relegated the A’s as having a Cinderella’s chance of claiming the championship.

“We have great chemistry,” he said. “We keep pushing and pushing. We were an underdog and came in second. I thought we did real good for ourselves this weekend.”

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