Firebirds get two big conference wins Saturday to jump the standings

Sam Herder
Ryan Haahr connects on a two-run double in Game 1 Saturday versus Wahpeton.

By Sam Herder

Journal Sports Editor

Last Monday’s doubleheader sweep against Valley City brought the Devils Lake baseball team back into the middle pack of the Eastern Dakota Conference standings. Saturday’s sweep against Wahpeton had the Firebirds jump the pack.

DL defeated the Huskies 10-8 and 11-1. Although the official EDC website doesn’t have the two wins updated in the standings, the sweep gives the Firebirds a 9-8 conference record, moving them past three teams with current 8-9 records.

“That is what we went in expecting or wanting to do,” Firebirds head coach Justin Bear said on Saturday’s wins. “The first game was a little back and forth. They showed amazing guts to come back two different times, and then took it for good the second time. That was good to see. The second game we started off with a lead, which set the tone and took the pressure off. Two good wins that we needed to have.”

The Firebirds had to battle for it in the opening game. Ryan Haahr drove in three of DL’s first four runs with a double and triple. But Wahpeton strung together four runs in the top of the fourth to take an 8-4 lead.

DL rallied in the sixth. Three straight hit by pitches scored Noah Widmer. A Landyn Swenson single drove in Joey Hornstein. Ben Shepherd drew a bases-loaded walk to score Jake Mertens.

Then Haahr did some more damage.

Haahr hit a shot deep into the outfield, which went off the centerfielder’s glove, who had to cover plenty of ground.

The result was three runs scoring and the Firebirds taking a 10-8 lead.

Hornstein, who came in for Mertens on the mound in the fourth inning, finished the game strong. He struck out two batters in the seventh inning to get the win.

The second game couldn’t come soon enough for the Firebirds. Still carryng momentum from the come-from-behind Game 1 win, DL took care of business early against the Huskies.

Swenson launched a three-run home run in the first inning and Shepherd later scored for a 4-0 lead.

“They were pumped up,” Bear said. “It made them relaxed. They were confident and they took it and ran with it.”

Three more runs were added in the third inning, sparked by a two-run triple off of Hornstein’s bat. Mertens quickly sent Hornstein home with one of his three hits in the game.

DL ended the game in the fifth inning through the 10-run rule.

After loading the bases, Shepherd drove home Mertens with a single. Haahr drew a walk to score Ty Ness. Widmer’s single sent Swenson home and Haahr singled as Shepherd came around to score the 11th run.

With an overall record of 11-10 now, the Firebirds are hitting their stride at the perfect time.

“We’re getting there,” Bear said. “Error-less baseball is what we’ve been talking about and getting those clutch hits. It’s definitely encouraging, especially any time you sweep any team is obviously encouraging. We’re starting to hit our stride.”

DL has two doubleheaders remaining, starting Tuesday with its last home games against second-place West Fargo.

“There’s several teams that are right in the wins with us,” Bear said. “We’re still on the fringe where it’s not a sure thing we’ll make it into the tournament. These wins today helped us. Nothing is guaranteed yet, but they sure do help.”