West Fargo ends Devils Lake season one game shy of state tournament with a 13-6 win.
Mother Nature caused havoc to the North Dakota High School Activities Association East Region baseball tournament in Devils Lake. It forced the semifinal round to be moved up a day and then rain throughout the day on Friday, May 24, forced the championship game to switch venues and the state qualifying games to be bumped back four hours from their original start time so the grounds crew could get Legion Field at Roosevelt Park in playable condition.
And once the game started, West Fargo wrecked havoc to the Firebirds.
The Packers banged out 18 hits, two of them home runs from Brayden Jacobson, en route to the 13-6 win over Devils Lake on Saturday, May 25. The loss ended the Firebirds season, one game away from reaching the NDHSAA Class A state baseball tournament in Minot next weekend.
“We just ran out of arms,” said Firebirds head coach Brent Luehring. “We were fortunate enough all year long to play two conference games a week and run who we thought were our two best pitchers out there.
“We knew that we would have to be in a third game to go to state somewhere down the line. And we tried to mix and match, we they starting squaring stuff up we’ll go to another arm but you have to give West Fargo credit. They were ready to go today.”
The Packers (17-9) opened the game when Jacobson, batting leadoff, took starting pitcher Luke Aanstad yard that quickly gave West Fargo the 1-0 lead.
In the second inning, the Packers added two more runs when Adison Krank went deep to near left center for a solo homer and Dustin Mertz, who walked at his plate appearance, was knocked in by Brandon Steinhauer.
The Firebirds (14-9) tied the ballgame in the bottom half of the third inning. After Chris Shepherd drew the walk and an Aaron Johnson single, with one out, Jacob Greene beat out the throw to first on a fielder’s choice that put runners at the corners. Michael Widmer’s two-run double scored Nate Grafsgaard and Hayden Hofstad, both who came in to courtesy run for Shepherd and Greene respectively. Widmer later scored off a fielding error by Jacobson that was hit by Joey Hornstein.
Jacobson’s second home run of the game, plus a two-run single by Steinhauer gave the Packers a 6-3 lead after four innings. West Fargo was never threatened again.
Aanstad, Greene, Parker Vilandre and Grafsgaard all saw time on the mound for the Firebirds who’s season ended with consecutive losses for the first time since losing a doubleheader to Fargo North back on May 2. Hornstein and Luke Knowski, playing their final game in a Firebirds uniform, each scored runs for Devils Lake.
“We had a heck of a year,” Luehring said reflecting back on the 2019 season. “Last year, we were 4 and 11, this year we’re 14 and 9, a 10 game difference. The program as a whole took a giant leap forward and I think it’s something that we can build on for the future.”
Chris Harris can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @ChrisHarris_DLJ