8th-seeded Firebirds confident heading into balanced East Region Tournament

Sam Herder
The Devils Lake baseball team is seeded No. 8 in the East Region Tournament and play top-seeded West Fargo at 11 a.m. today in Fargo.

By Sam Herder

Journal Sports Editor

The East Region Baseball Tournament seedings could have been better for Devils Lake. They could have been worse. But in a competitive and balanced league, seedings may not be too important this year.

Five teams finished 10-10 in the Eastern Dakota Conference standings. Of those 10-10 teams, Fargo South was left out of the eight-team region tournament while the Firebirds were the last team in.

They’ll play top-seeded West Fargo at 11 a.m. today at Jack Williams Stadium in Fargo.

“All the teams other than Davies and Sheyenne, we have at least split with,” Firebirds head coach Justin Bear said. “So going into the tournament, even though we’re the No. 8 seed and knowing that the bottom five are all tied, it is kind of a confidence thing where we know we can play with anyone.”

DL split with the Packers in the last regular season home doubleheader. The Firebirds lost 8-1 before coming back in the bottom of the seventh and winning 6-5 in Game 2.

Without that win, the Firebirds wouldn’t be in this tournament.

“We know their first pitcher they threw, we know what he has and he’s a pretty good pitcher,” Bear said on West Fargo. “But after that, we were able to score some runs against some of their other pitchers. We were talking about that earlier that we know we can play with them. We just need to get clutch hits.”

Tournaments come down to pitching, and Bear said he thinks the Firebirds are well situated, adding some guys have thrown their best games toward the end of the regular season.

And in a balanced bracket, any team catching fire will make some noise.

DL has won eight of its last 11 games.

“In years past it may have been a couple dominant teams,” Bear said. “But this year everyone has been beating up each other. To me, even though we’re a No. 8 seed going into it, whoever is going into the tournament the hottest can go away as one of the top four.”

The top four in this instance advance to state along with the top four from the West Region. The region tournaments are double-elimination. A team must win two games before they lose two games to advance to state.

Tournament experience isn’t on the side of the Firebirds. But Bear said he doesn’t think that will be a factor.

“Typically it is, but they’ve grown in experience through the year,” he said. “And when they beat some of these top teams, it is a huge confidence boost. It is the EDC Tournament and it has been a few years, but these guys, I don’t even know if they’re paying attention to it. It’s just another game they know they have to go out and win.”

DL’s and West Fargo’s top half of the bracket is matched up with No. 4 Grand Forks Red River and No. 5 West Fargo Sheyenne.

The winners play at 4 p.m. Friday and the losers play at 11 a.m. Friday.

The tournament wraps up Saturday with two state qualifier games beginning at noon and then the championship game at about 5 p.m.

“Beginning of the season it was the team’s goal to get to the EDC,” Bear said. “Now that we’re there, we’re not content with just getting there. We don’t want to settle for that. Our next goal is to get to state. We know we’re fully capable of doing it, we just have to go out and do it.”