Thompson, looking to get back to state championship, doubles up Grand Forks Central 10-5
The Tommies are seeking their sixth consecutive state tournament appearance.
GRAND FORKS — While getting in as many innings as they can before potential inclement weather, the Thompson Tommies remain steady and aggressive in their routine of getting on base, moving runners over and bringing them home.
It has been on repeat for the Tommies since 2013, as this season they are looking to reach the state Class B baseball tournament for the eighth time in nine years. Monday at Kraft Field saw the Tommies get right down to business against Grand Forks Central (1-3) in a 10-5 win.
In their first cycle through the order, the Tommies (4-0) got out to a 6-0 lead. Reece Berberich and Tyler Cunningham picked up RBIs on doubles, with the first man on in the first two innings stealing a base. An early use of the squeeze came into play in the top of the second to score Brody Gibson.
“It’s a mindset thing for us. The other team is playing in it too, so we’re doing what we can do. We think we run the bases pretty well, so we’re going to be aggressive. We can always dial it back if it doesn’t work,” Thompson coach Nate Soulis said.
A sunny afternoon turned crisp rather quickly, but it was as nice of a day as both teams may see this early in the season. Forecasts project more winter weather on the way and the Tommies have already had to travel some distances to start the year. First on their schedule was Bismarck and Valley City before visiting the turfed Kraft Field for their matchup with the Knights.
“We’ve been lucky to be able to play baseball so far,” Soulis said. “It’s been a lot of travel with our field not being ready yet. The ability to come in and play well for the first four games is really nice to see.”
Leading the way for Thompson this year has been Berberich, a junior, and Cunningham, a senior, who have started the year combining for nine hits, six RBI and six stolen bases. On Monday, they both picked up two hits and two RBI, showing little weakness to the weather.
On the mound, they have both picked up wins. Cunningham struck out nine across his two victories and Berberich struck out four, including one against Central’s Colton Bjorge as he closed out their win.
“It’s spring in North Dakota. These kids have been through this experience before, but it is nice to have an experienced team too where they have played and are used to it at this point,” Soulis said.
One of those young bats that has started hot this year is sophomore Drew Overby. He was 1-4 against Central, but is batting .500 with a 1.000 OPS and three RBI.
“We just have to take it one game, one practice at a time. We can’t look too far forward,” Overby said.
When COVID caused a cancellation to the Spring 2020 season, it allowed younger players like Overby to come in and get playing time the following season while the program retooled. The Tommies had just lost three consecutive Class B championships in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and as upperclassmen moved on from a year without baseball, it allowed a reset of sorts without taking away from the precedent of success the program built.
“Not having that year hurt, but we have a crew where last year there were some fresh faces. You’re young but you’re going to play. Those kids stepped up. Last year was a successful year with the crew we had. So this year, everyone is back for the most part and we have that experience which helps,” said Soulis.
Now, looking to make their sixth straight state tournament appearance, eyes are set on making another deep run.
“We have to do whatever it takes to get better. Whether it’s indoor practices, we know we have to get outside and adjust to that whether it's cold or not. One game at a time and one practice at a time is how we are moving forward,” said Overby.
Their one-game-at-a-time mentality paid off against Central. After picking up the 6-0 lead, the Tommies held off the Knights, who scored single runs in the second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh innings, but never managed to compound on their opportunities. Jack Jahnke went 2-2 and drove in three of those runs.
Grand Forks Central 5
TT 240 310 0 — 10 12 0
GFC 011 110 1 — 5 9 2
GFC – Jack Jahnke 2-2, 3 RBI; Wyatt Wockenfuss 1-2, 3B, RBI; Braden Brevik 1-3, 3B, RBI; Aidan Lee (L) 2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB
TT – Tyler Cunningham 2-4, 2 RBI, 2B; Reece Berberich 2-3, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2B; Kyle Odenbach 1-5, 2 RBI, 2B; Ryan Strande 2-3, RBI, BB; Connor Welsh (W) 3.2 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 2 ER, 4 SO