LEGION BASEBALL: Cando adds baseball to list of state tournament appearances

Maybe it was the string of playoff losses during the 2012-13 school year. Maybe it was coming up one win short of a state tournament berth in two straight baseball seasons.

Maybe it was the string of playoff losses during the 2012-13 school year. Maybe it was coming up one win short of a state tournament berth in two straight baseball seasons.

Whatever the reason, Cando has added baseball to its list of state tournament appearances. Cando beat Harvey 6-1 on Saturday in the Section 5 title game to earn a berth in the North Dakota Class B American Legion state baseball tournament, which begins Wednesday in Beulah. It will be the first state appearance since Cando re-started its legion program in 2008.

"We had motivation,'' pitcher-infielder Jake Hagler said. "We were so close in our last two baseball seasons. And the Divide County, Four Winds and Harvey games -- those were in the back of our minds.

"It's the last we'll all be together in an organized sport. We wanted to do something big one more time.''

The Cando roster includes 2013 high school graduates Hagler, Daniel Grande, Brooks Larson, Steven Hunt and Aaron Bergdahl. They've all been a part of North Star High School teams that have played in the 9-man state football championship game and in the Class B state basketball tournament.


But their senior year included: 1) A double-overtime 36-30 loss to Divide County in the 9-man football quarterfinals; 2) a 66-56 loss to Four Winds-Minnewaukan in the Region 4 basketball title game, ending a bid for a third straight state appearance; and 3) a 3-2 loss to Harvey in the Region 5 baseball championship.

In addition, Cando lost to Velva in the Section 5 title game in the 2012 Legion season.

"This past year has been tough for these kids,'' Legion coach Jesse Vote said. "They're motivated athletes.''

Vote admits, however, that he doesn't always see that motivation on the baseball diamond. The Cando athletes, he said, haven't dedicated time to baseball like they have to basketball and football.

"Baseball for them is more of a recreational sport,'' Vote said. "They're competitive. They don't like to lose. But it's not like in basketball, where when they lost in the region final it was like the end of the world to them.

"They're so easy going when it comes to baseball. At times it drives me nuts, not seeing that competitive drive they always have in other sports.''

That's not to say the Cando athletes aren't good baseball players. Hagler is a two-time all-state pick in high school. Grande, Larson and Bergdahl were all-region picks.

But it isn't unusual for the team to leave a baseball practice or game and go straight to the gymnasium to play pick-up basketball.


"We've always worked a lot on basketball,'' Hagler said. "We were always in the weight room training for football. Baseball, we go out to have fun. It's a sport where we're not expected to win all the time. It's a different feeling; a great feeling, with less pressure. But we're still competitors.''

That's showed this summer. Cando lost eight of its first 11 games. But the team turned things around at midseason. It has won 11 of its last 14 games.

"All of a sudden, our bats just lit up,'' Vote said of the turnaround. "And we haven't let up. It's not a lot of power; we've only hit two home runs all season. It's just been a lot of base hits, and we're getting key hits now.''

DeVillers reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1128; or send e-mail to .

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