Despite opening defeat, North Star ready to gain experience in Class B Baseball Tournament

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

FARGO – A battle between youth and experience set the stage during the opening game of the 2022 NDHSAA Class B Baseball State Tournament Thursday afternoon. 

The North Star Bearcats meet on the mound during their opening state tournament game against (#2) Thompson on June 2.

The pregame introductions between the North Star Bearcats and (#2) Thompson Tommies only proved this theme down to the letter. Thompson had four senior players and two juniors. North Star, meanwhile, had zero seniors and only one junior (Jack Ahlberg). 

Such an experience discrepancy could, at the very minimum, prove to be a difference-maker on the biggest stage at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo. 

“It is obviously huge,” North Star head coach Jesse Vote said after the game. “Thompson is a baseball-rich program. We are hopefully getting to that point, and that’s what I told them. I said, ‘seniors vs. sophomores.’ Physical, more mature, more experienced, understanding a game in the state tournament and just being able to know how to stay focused and make plays.” 

These intangible factors proved to go in Thompson’s favor through the early portion of their first-round game against the Bearcats on June 2. After Connor Welsh opened the inning with a slap single, a pair of errors quickly planted the Bearcats in a 2-0 deficit. 

However, what cemented North Star’s deficit was a collection of extra-base hits from the middle of the Thompson batting order, headlined by Kyle Odenbach’s right-field missile of a home run off of sophomore North Star pitcher Dane Hagler. 

Before North Star knew it, a 0-0 ballgame quickly transitioned into a 5-0 contest with less than two innings in the books.  

“Well, they [Thompson] put the bat on the ball,” Vote said. “They are very good hitters. Most of them can go from foul [ball] line to foul [ball] line. Dane [Hagler] was throwing strikes, you know, and part of the issue was obviously we had a few errors there to start off the game, and from a pitching standpoint, that can be frustrating, but we just keep harping at…we always tell our pitchers to do your job and control what you can control.” 

Although the Bearcats chipped away when they could, Thompson’s experience continued to whittle away the pitching and hitting end of the North Star lineup. Six errors on North Star’s end only heightened the difference between the two clubs. 

The (#2) Thompson Tommies utilized sharper pitching, hitting and baserunning en route to a 13-3 win over North Star in the opening game of the 2022 NDHSAA Class B Baseball State Tournament on June 2.

“I think part of it was [it] might be the spotlight a little bit,” Vote said. “I think we have had 11 errors in our last two games. I am pretty sure we weren’t anywhere near that in our first seven, but it’s a process when you have a group of young kids like this. Every game in the state tournament is going to be valuable experience for anything down the road, whatever it is. If it’s legion baseball, football, basketball...An error usually leads to two runs, and it was dang close to that today.” 

Once the wind and infield dirt settled, North Star’s 8-0 spotless record heading into the contest was no more. A 13-3 defeat ended any state title aspirations during the 2022 campaign. 

But no matter to North Star. 

To Vote, the opening game proved to be a character-building performance for his team. But, more importantly, the game provided the necessary experience North Star did not have previously. 

Sometimes, this experience makes all the difference in future state tournament games and seasons. Such is the theme, anyway. 

“There are 40-something teams that are not here, and we are fortunate to be one of the eight,” Vote said. “We have to…this is our time to learn. To learn and gain that experience. That is going to be beneficial to us down the road, and we still need to make sure we are focused come first pitch tomorrow, and hopefully, we are playing for fifth and sixth place.” 

Game breakdown: 

NSB: 0 1 1 0 0 1 x: 3 3 6 

TMP: 5 1 0 3 0 4 x: 13 8 0 

Standout stats: 

- North Star: 

    Pitching: 

    - Dane Hagler: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 0 ER, 4 K, 1 BB, 74 P 

    - Parker Simon: 2.0 IP, 0 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 K, 3 BB 37 P 

    - Karsen Simon: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 0 K, 1 BB, 28 P 

    - Jack Ahlberg: 0.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 K, 0 BB, 2 P 

    Hitting: 

    - Zachary Jorde: 1-2, 1 R 

    - Brett Dilley: 1-1, 1 RBI 

- Thompson: 

    Pitching: 

    - Connor Welsh: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 K, 2 BB, 58 P 

    - Reece Berberich: 2.0 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 K, 0 BB, 27 P 

    Hitting: 

    - Connor Welsh: 2-5, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 K 

    - Kyle Odenbach: 2-3 (1 HR), 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K 

    - Brayden Wolfgram: 2-3, 2 RBI 

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.