Mandan uses small ball to end Royals' Legion baseball season
WILLISTON--Taking the ultimate small-ball approach, Mandan stayed alive. The Chiefs had 11 hits in their loser-out game against Grand Forks on Friday afternoon--all of them singles. But none were more damaging than a pair of misplayed bunts that ...
WILLISTON-Taking the ultimate small-ball approach, Mandan stayed alive.
The Chiefs had 11 hits in their loser-out game against Grand Forks on Friday afternoon-all of them singles. But none were more damaging than a pair of misplayed bunts that went for base hits in the top of the ninth inning with Mandan clinging to a 5-4 lead.
That sequence loaded the bases, and Mason Huntley -Thursday's walk-off hero against Dickinson --shot another single through the left side to score a pair of runs in an eventual 8-5 victory over the Royals in the North Dakota Class AA state Legion tournament.
After being relegated to a play-in game on Tuesday, the Chiefs have made it to the penultimate day of the tournament.
"We've gotten our confidence back," Mandan head coach Jake Kincaid said. "The past month, our confidence has been down in the dumps, and we've found ways to get big hits and get big outs. It's been huge for our confidence."
Grand Forks, meanwhile, ends its summer. The Royals lost a 12-9 decision to West Fargo Thursday evening but couldn't bounce back for Friday's first game.
"They did some things and executed, some of the small-ball things, and they came up with big hits when they needed to," Grand Forks head coach Nick Chine said. "They pitched effectively and didn't put a lot of people on base. I don't know how many people they walked, or if they hit anybody, so baserunners were scarce unless we earned them."
The teams matched each other early on, scoring three runs apiece in the third inning.
In the top half, the Chiefs got an RBI single from Jaden Andresen that scored Noah Gerhardt, and an RBI groundout from Ty Leingang that scored Evan Arenz. Andresen later scored on a passed ball for a 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the third, Arenz allowed a leadoff single to Royals nine-hole hitter Noah Chine before getting the first two outs. Then three straight doubles from Ben Carolin, Brock Reller and Landon Kraft tied the game 3-3.
Grand Forks took its first lead in the fourth after Brenden Bethke had the third of three consecutive two-out singles to score Chine for a 4-3 edge.
The Chiefs fought back with an RBI single from Leingang with two outs in the fifth for another tied game.
Mandan loaded the bases in the eighth, made possible by Leingang reaching on an error on Royals shortstop Bethke to begin the frame. Four batters later, Quinn Halstengard bounced into a fielder's choice that scored Leingang for a 5-4 advantage.
Arenz was relieved on the mound by Easton Miller to start the eighth inning. Miller pitched around a leadoff double from Zach Murphy to keep the one-run lead. Arenz pitched seven innings to earn the win.
"The young kids are really stepping up," Andresen said. "We had a sophomore start today and a junior came in and closed it. ... Grand Forks is a really good team, and what we did really well today is come together. We didn't give up after they put up a three-spot and then took the lead."
In the ninth, Ricky Zander drew a walk and Miller and Andresen followed with their bunt singles. Leingang and Alex Horner flew out and bounced into a fielder's choice at home, respectively, setting the table for Huntley.
Jackson Zittleman followed with a fielder's choice to plate Mandan's eighth run. Reller homered with two outs in the bottom of the ninth for the final margin.
"I tell them at the start of the season, and I reiterate it now, that they're all part of my family - the Post 6 family," Chine said. "I'm very proud of them. I couldn't ask for a better group of young men to work with. It's going to end badly for everybody except one team, and it ended badly for us today."