Winning tradition illuminates North Star's path toward Region V Championship win

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

CANDO – For the North Star Bearcats, it was about changing the tradition. 

The Bearcats had a predicament on their hands Wednesday evening in what was potentially a championship-clinching game against the Rugby Panthers. However, there was one caveat – they needed to score one run to tie and two runs to win. With a 5-4 score in Rugby's favor heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the top of North Star's batting order had a chance to not only win the Region V Baseball Tournament but additionally punch their ticket to the 2022 NDHSAA Class B Baseball State Tournament in Fargo. 

But it all revolved back to tradition. Former North Star teams might not have stepped up to the challenge. Former North Star teams might have conceded after falling into an early 4-1 hole. Former North Star teams might have assumed the worst and expected even less. 

The North Star Bearcats hoist the trophy signifying their Region V Championship win on May 25.

Not the 2022 Bearcats, though. 

Instead, the team rolled up their collective sleeves and went to work. After Dane Hagler reached on an error to open the bottom of the seventh inning, the sophomore shortstop stole second and immediately bolted to third after a throwing error by catcher Erik Foster. Dane's younger brother, Hunter, then roped a single to drive Dane in. 

Tie game. 

Former tradition might have seen the Bearcats play lax and instead prepare for the looming extra-inning affair ahead. After all, the team was at home, and momentum was theoretically still in their favor. 

Not the 2022 Bearcats. 

Instead, Parker Simon reached on another error and moved Hunter over to second. Then, after Jack Ahlberg lined out to third base, Charles Bisbee slapped a groundball through the infield hole on the first base side. 

Former tradition might have seen North Star hold up at third due to the potential cannon throw that awaited the play at home. But the Bearcats didn't cower. And so, the Bearcats walked off the Panthers, 6-5, to claim the Region V crown on May 25. 

"There was no question about it," North Star head coach Jesse Vote said after the game. "As soon as there was contact, he [Hunter] was going. He knew that I was actually trying to get him to steal third base to see if we could maybe get another errant throw into left field. I don't think he actually did take off, but Chas [Bisbee] put the ball in play. We got a lucky hop, they got an unlucky hop...however you want to look at it. We were able to scratch the winning run across." 

Almost immediately, the dugout erupted with enthusiastic cheers. Then, the dugout cleared with a swift motion as the team huddled together to celebrate on. 

"Excitement," Hunter said after the game. "Just ready to go on the doggy pile and just enjoy the time that we are going to state." 

The North Star Bearcats pile up on the field following their walk-off win over Rugby in the Region V Championship on May 25.

After winning each of their first two Region V Tournament games – including their "home" win at Rugby High School on May 24 – the Bearcats were still not immune to adversity, even after returning to Cando to finish off the last day of the tournament. Instead, the Bearcats, led by starter Zachary Jorde, gradually fell out of sync after conceding four runs in the top of the third inning. 

However, the winning tradition remained firm, and slowly but surely, the Bearcats overcame the pitching and defensive woes. Hunter, in particular, remained positive and even changed up what piece of lumber he brought to the plate. Hunter finished the game with two hits after striking out in each of his first two at-bats. 

"He was calling low, so I just had to adjust," Hunter said. "I switched to a different bat that I have been hitting well [with] last year, and it just helped me, I guess." 

While the Bearcats gradually eliminated a 4-1 and 5-2 deficit on the diamond, teammates within the dugout continued to keep morale high. To Vote, this exemplified yet another winning mentality. 

This morale came to a crescendo in the seventh inning. 

"I was just trying to keep everything as calm as possible, but the kids were the ones that sparked the dugout that last inning, for sure," Vote said. "The whole game, they were talking to each other, 'keep your head up. We've got this. Don't give up. Make the next play.' Various things like that. So, kudos to our kids."

Once the dust from the all-dirt infield cleared, the Bearcats came together to show their winning tradition once again. Except for this time, it had to do with soaking their head coach from head to toe with a Gatorade bath. 

Such a possibility comes with the trade. And a winning one, at that. 

"Cold," Vote said. "I knew it was coming… It's one of those things you don't even care. You worry about it later. I'll take a Gatorade bath every year if I could, so yeah. Great game. It was a good baseball game. I obviously like to keep the errors off [of] the board, but it was back-and-forth and two really good baseball teams. We know each other very well, and luckily, we came out on the good end." 

While former Bearcat teams might have buckled at adversity before, the 2022 rendition conquered it. Instead of being unable to come away with a region tournament victory, they tasted it instead.

In the case of the flavor-filled Gatorade bath, literally. 

"Something blue," Vote said. 

Changing the tradition couldn't be sweeter. 

Game breakdown: 

RGB: 0 0 4 1 0 0 0: 5 5 5 

NSB: 0 1 1 0 1 1 2: 6 7 5 

Standout stats: 

- Rugby: 

    Pitching: 

    - Brody Schneibel: 5.2 IP, 4 R, 8 K 

    - Jacob Ripplinger: L, 1.0 IP, 2 R, 1 K 

    Hitting: 

    - Gavin Schepp: 2-3, 2 R 

    - Erik Foster: 1-3, 2 RBI 

    - Brody Schneibel: 1-3 

- North Star: 

    Pitching: 

    - Zachary Jorde: 5.0 IP, 5 R, 9 K

    - Parker Simon: W, 2.0 IP, 0 R, 2 K 

    Hitting: 

    - Garrett Westlind: 3-3, 2 RBI 

    - Hunter Hagler: 2-4, 1 RBI 

    - Jack Ahlberg: 2-4 

    - Dane Hagler: 1-4, 2 R 

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.