Corey's Corner 4/26

Posted 4/26/17 (Wed)

               A playoff chase can mean many different things. Sometimes, it refers to a team that is trying to climb the standings and find themselves in whatever their league’s postseaon is. Other times, it can mean a squad is merely trying to defend its’ spot against newcomers as they already hold a quality berth in the games after the regular season. And not all playoffs are created equal too. Some are the run for a championship, others merely setup another, bigger opportunity.

               We start out with the former in both cases as the Bismarck Bucks looked to find themselves in the Champions Indoor postseason with a quality surge that continues to become more impressive by the week. In this edition, the Bucks took on the Omaha Beef, one of the longest standing teams in all of indoor football. Omaha came into the contest as one of the best rushing teams in the league, and so the absence of their starting running back was felt in a big way. Nevertheless, the Bucks came out with some injuries of their own (including defensive all-star Brenden Daley) and got the job done.

               And right from the word go, the Bucks showed what their blueprint was gonna be to win this game. As the Bucks defense came out and forced a 3rd and long, Jarelle Miller pinned his ears back and went after the quarterback from his linebacker spot. And he got there in a big way, forcing the fumble and a huge loss. The Beef did recover, but the long FG wouldn’t go for Omaha. The Bucks would also force a fumble in the defensive start to this one, as Jarelle Miller would make another great play on Anthony Ianotti. The defensive battle would continue until the JB connection revealed itself for the first time in the game: Jonathan Bane found Jauhem Byrd for an 18 yard touchdown. Those two have developed a real rapport these past few weeks, and in fact Byrd has bonded with all three starting QBs the Bucks have had this season. Here they start things out on the right foot and give Bismarck the first lead of the day. It wouldn’t hold up long, as Anothony Iannotti found one of his top targets Chris Perry.

               This would start the scoring flurry that we see so often in the indoor game. Evan Connolly would drill a long field goal, proving once again his status as an elite kicker in this league. But Ianotti would get the ball to his other top target on the day Andrew King. The momentum wouldn’t hold out long in the Beefs favor though, as on the ensuing kickoff Tyler Floyd took the ball the length of the field and back to the house. The most explosive play in Bucks history on special teams came at a huge time to the game, and it really was an early gut punch for the Beef. Bane would find Byrd again wide open down the field, and Ianotti responded with a deep strike to Jordan Boykin. Elby Pope upped the ante, and rolled right off a tackle and scored. Elby’s ability to run after contact has been a difference maker for the Bucks this year, and it makes for some exciting plays. Elby wound find pay-turf again amidst the Bucks flurry that rolled over to the second half as well. One of the biggest reasons for that rollover momentum was a huge play not only by Jarelle Miller, but converted d-lineman DeMarco Smith. The former Jamestown RB was outstanding up front, and he came and pried the ball away from Skyler Scott. Michael Thompson recovered, and Bismarck had taken the wind out of the sails of the Beef.

               Tyler Floyd again would make his presence felt. The former DB from Utah State had his best game in the Peace Garden State and flashed the wheels again with a 42 yard score. Tyler was simply faster than the Beef on this day, and he showed it regularly. Speaking of career Days, Jarelle Miller would once again get in on the Beef attack this time knocking the ball away from Chris Perry. And the Bucks did recover this one. Nevertheless, the drive stalled and the Beef took advantage with another deep strike to Jordan Boykin. The talent of a good, storied team in indoor football continued to show itself, and the Bucks continued to smother it. Jon Bane made it back-to-back weeks with rushing TDs from the QB position, this time lowering his shoulder and powering his way into the endzone on a keeper from eight yards out. LaKeith Murray would yoink the football away via the INT, continuing to paint the masterpiece of a turnover differential that the Bucks had working. The ex-Minot State Beaver and Hazen Bison Brent Sorensen caught his first pass, and it was for a score.  The Bucks slaughtered the Beef, and picked up their first winning streak in franchise history. A perfect atmosphere to roll into the bye week, try and get healthy, and set up a big matchup with a slowing down Sioux City team that Bismarck hasn’t found a way to beat yet.

               Then we headed to Fargo for some Bison baseball. For North Dakota State, they found themselves in the 2nd spot of the Summit League standings, putting them in a great spot for when the Summit league tourney rolls around. That’s what matters in this one, winning that run of games and finding a way to the big dance. Here, NDSU was playing host to the Omaha Mavericks in a great spot. The Bison had won four straight games, and controlled that same number of conference series in row. NDSU had made a living winning the close ones, and they tried to do so again here vs. the Mavs. Each of the first two games were completely different. In the first, it was Omaha getting out on the right foot early. Sam Palensky reached base right away for the Mavs, and was sac’ed over. So the Mavs had a gyt in scoring position. Credit to Luke Lind for the Bison, he worked out of it. The first inning though would be a troubling trend for the Bison on the weekend. The Mavs again would get a base runner in the second, but not dice. NDSU couldn’t find their rhythm at the plate, and the Mavericks took the initiative in the 3rd. The All-Summit Leaguer Ryan Cate drove in the first run, and then he would come around to score as Omaha took a 2-0 lead. That would become a 3-0 lead in the 4th as Adam Caniglia hit the first homer of the series.

                That brought Parker Harm in relief for NDSU, who was as good as anyone throughout the weekend. Outside of one late rally, Omaha would never even sniff a scoring opportunity vs. the young  lefty out of Mandan. And North Dakota State did eventually break the shutout, as Alec Abercrombie began his scorching series with a single up the middle to score Tucker Rohde. But unfortunately for an offense that has a great deal of firepower, that would be their only run. Sam Murphy had an outstanding start, and Grant Suponchick came in and shut the door. So NDSU’s win streak was broken, but they had lost the first game of the series last time vs. the Mavs, and looked to come back strong on Day 2.

               They did. Things started out just like the day before, though, with a rough top half of the 1st.  Omaha struck first again as Suponchick drove in Thibodeau, and Ryan Cate scored the second run again for the Mavs. The difference is this time, the Bison bats came ready. Ben Petersen sent a long double into center, scoring Mason Pierczhalski. The Bison had already matched the production from the day before, and it wouldn’t be their last. But first, Omaha would come back up. And they got sent down 1-2-3. After a bumpy first, Reed Pfannenstein was untouchable by Omaha. The two runs the Mavs scored in their first would also be their last offense of the game.

               The Bison, on the other hand, exploded in the second. J.T. Core started it out with a no-doubter to right that evened the game at two. Then Tucker Rohde reached base, followed by another Abercrombie hit. Drew Fearing knocked down a double that doubled the Bison run total to 4. Mason Pierzchalski hit a sac fly to make it 5-2. And again, 1-2-3 for Omaha. Abercrombie brought in another on a sac fly in the third, Bennett Hostetler had a two run single, and this thing was put to bed. North Dakota State executed their pitches and their defensive gameplan and won it easily. That set up rubber match on Sunday to decide the series. For a look back at that, check out Brian’s work over at the Monday Morning Rewind. Factoring the weekend’s results in, the Bison still sit in one of the Summit League’s top spots and looked to be poised for a quality Summit League tourney run.