In the spring, Kevin Folman is the closer for North Dakota State. On Saturday, Folman slammed the door on the Bismarck Larks as the Duluth Huskies beat the Larks 6-5 in the Northwoods League.
Folman was called on in the eighth inning after the Larks had scored four runs to get within a run and the go-ahead runs on bases with no outs.
After walking NDSU teammate Mason Pierzchalski to load the bases, Folman struck out Quinn Irey, Wyatt Ulrich and Mitch Gallagher.
He then worked an easy ninth for the save.
“As a bullpen guy, those are the situations you live for, the pressure moments,” Folman said. “This atmosphere here is great and when the fans are clapping you want to do anything you can to make them quiet. It was a big situation, but that’s what you live for.”
After getting out of the eighth, he coaxed to groundouts to second and struck out Cullen Smith to send the Huskies to their fourth straight win.
Duluth manager Daniel Hersey said Folman – the Huskies’ fifth pitcher – was the perfect man for the job.
“Kevin came in and did an outstanding job,” Hersey said. “We know what he can do an we wanted him in that situation.”
Folman’s hitless relief made a winner of Piero Amador, who went 6 2/3 innings, giving up one run on five hits. He struck out two and left with a 2-1 lead.
Bismarck starter Ryan Byrd worked six innings. He struck out six and gave up seven hits.
Duluth shortstop Camryn Williams was 4-for-5 with a run scored. Sam Baier and Matt Frazier added two hits and Baier drove in two runs.
Mitch Gallagher had two of the Larks’ seven hits amnd Scooter Bynum drove in two runs in the four-run eighth.
Duluth played small ball to take a 1-0 lead in the third inning.
With one out, Augie Isaacson reached first on a bunt hitting in the nine hole. He went to second when leadoff hitter Jake Smith was hit by a pitch and to third on Williams’ bunt single. Isaacson then scored on Sam Baier’s sacrifice fly to center.
Amador coasted into the third inning when the Larks threatened. With two outs and the bases loaded, Amador coaxed new Bismarck shortstop Cooper Coldiron to ground out second to the pitcher covering to end the threat.
The Larks tied it 1-1 in the fourth when new Lark Austin Paschke doubled to deep right-center to score new Lark Ryan Anderson, who had been hit by a pitch.
The Huskies went back on top in the sixth when Matt Frazier singled to center and later scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-2.
Frazier also had a hand in Duluth stretching the lead to 4-1 off reliever Parker Harm in the seventh. Harm loaded the bases with one out on a single and two walks and Frazier drove home Williams with a sac fly.
Kyle Hubbuch then hit a ground ball to Coldiron, whose throw to second was wide, allowing Baier to score.
The Huskies upped it to 6-1 with two runs in the eight.
The Larks made it interesting against three Duluth pitchers in the eighth.
Greg Brown gave up four runs without getting an out. He was replaced by Andrew O’Dwyer, who gave up a walk and a hit.
With two on and no outs, O’Dwyer’s first pitch to Pierzchalski was a ball and he was replaced by Folman, who walked Pierzchalski before closing the door. He also walked a batter in the night but it was with two outs.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted it to but we fought back,” Larks manager Sean Repay said. “It could have ended 6-1 but we’re always going to make things interesting.
“That closer is real good. He’s a good pitcher.”
The teams play the last of a two-game series today at 3:05 p.m.