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North Dakota Class B State Baseball Tournament
Third Place Team, the Lewis & Clark Wildcats!
By Caroline Downs and Jana Fjeldahl
In their first appearance in the Class B state baseball tournament since 1980, the Lewis & Clark Wildcats picked up a third place trophy and served notice their young team is a force on the field.
The Wildcats topped Washburn-Wilton-Center-Stanton in Saturday’s third place game played at the Jack Brown Stadium in Jamestown, winning 4-3 in eight innings as the team’s three seniors each scored their first runs in the tournament.
The game began as a defensive battle, with outs coming quickly on both sides through three scoreless innings. Senior Adam Birdsall started on the mound for Lewis & Clark, backed up with solid Wildcats defense.
The Cardinals threatened to score in the second as Jesse Henke streaked home on a pop fly by Brenden Sweeney. Wildcats center fielder Chandler Karna caught the fly ball for the out, then rocketed the ball to home plate where catcher Tristan Gray tagged Henke out, as the Lewis & Clark fans cheered.
When the fourth inning started, the Wildcats’ bats found their target. Seniors Birdsall and Karna both had their first base hits of the tournament, as did junior Tyler Fjeldahl. Gray came up to bat and pounded a hit that was mishandled by the Cardinals, sending Birdsall and Karna across the plate for the Wildcats’ first two runs in the game.
Karna took over pitching duties for Birdsall in the fifth inning after Jesse Henke hit a stand-up double to the wall, then scored on a sacrifice bunt by Zach Hruby.
The sixth inning was a stalemate between the two teams as the defenses took over again, but the seventh inning heated up as freshman Jordan Nelson had a base hit, then stole third and home on two wild pitches to give the Wildcats a 3-1 edge.
The Cardinals refused to end the game on that note, however. Brett Schreiner had a base hit to left field, followed by a base hit from Evan Eberle. Kirk Sailer stepped up to the plate and watched as both runners advanced on a wild pitch from Chandler. Sailer then knocked a solid base hit that sent both runners home to tie the score.
In the eighth inning, Wildcats senior Brandin Langan stepped up to the plate still looking for his first hit of the tournament. He knocked the ball to second base, where it bounced off the fielder’s glove.
Langan advanced to second after the Cardinal’s first baseman was called for a block, and looked back as junior Mackenzie Gray stepped to the plate.
Gray got his third hit of the game with a punch to right field, sending Langan across home plate for the 4-3 advantage.
The momentum carried over as the Wildcats took the field for the bottom of the eighth. The Cardinals sent three batters who made three hits, but the first two grounded out as Fjeldahl covered first base flawlessly. W-W-C-S’s final hope hit a pop fly, caught easily as the Wildcats started their victory celebration.
Lewis & Clark finished the game with 4 runs on 10 hits, making 2 errors. Karna was credited with the win, going 4 innings. He walked 2 batters, had 1 strike-out, and threw 63 pitches. Birdsall took the mound through the first four innings, throwing 71 pitches.
For the game, Mackenzie Gray and Tristan Gray each finished 2 of 4 at bat, with Austin Lee, Birdsall, Karna, Fjeldahl and Nelson all 1 of 3. Langan also hit 1 of 3 and scored the final run.
On defense, Lee, Nelson and outfielder Adam Knudsvig caught two fly balls each, while Tristan Gray, second baseman Aaron Schenfisch and Birdsall at center field each made one catch. Schenfisch made two plays to first base, while Lee and Langan each made one. Gray connected with Schenfisch to throw out a runner at second.
The Wildcats also took home the third place trophy after their appearance in the 1980 Class B state tournament. Fans and parents welcomed the team home at the Lampert-Karna field in Makoti Sunday afternoon.
In Saturday’s other games, Carrington shut out Hatton-Northwood 1-0 for seventh place, Bottineau topped Kindred-Richland 5-1 for fifth place, and Beulah claimed the state title with a 5-3 win over Grafton.
Karna was named to the Class B State Tournament All-Tournament team for the Wildcats. He was joined by Justin McCloud and Mark LaCroix of Bottineau, Kirk Sailer of W-W-C-S, Sean Cose of Kindred-Richland, Trevor Zacher, Brett Koch and Patrick Becker of Beulah, Jaime Villarreal, Joseph Demers and Zach Suda of Grafton, and Michael Paulson of Hatton-Northwood.
Wildcats lose to Miners
In Friday’s semi-finals action, the Wildcats struggled against the Beulah Miners, losing 6-1. Lee took the mound for Lewis & Clark, throwing 123 pitches in six and two-thirds innings, including 6 strike-outs. He gave up 5 earned runs and 1 walk in the contest. Langan provided relief pitching in the final inning.
The bats were quiet for both teams through the first two innings, but Beulah scored runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings to take a 3-0 lead. The Miners went up 6-0 in the seventh inning, and the Wildcats took their final turn at bat.
Langan took first base on an error charged to Beulah, and Mackenzie Gray followed that with a base hit to third, only to see both runners tagged out on a double play. With two outs, Schenfisch made a base hit, followed by a hit by Nelson. Lee stepped to the plate and, on a full count, knocked a fly ball to center field where the umpire ruled no catch was made.
Schenfisch rounded home for the Wildcats’ first run in the game, with Nelson and Lee in scoring position on base. Birdsall couldn’t keep the rally going, however, striking out to end the game.
Lewis & Clark finished with 1 run, 6 hits and 5 errors, compared to 6 runs by Beulah on 9 hits and only 3 errors.
Schenfisch hit 3 for 3 in the game, while Lee was 2 for 4 and Nelson 1 for 3.
In the day’s other semi-final game, Grafton defeated Washburn-Wilton-Center-Stanton 11-4. In consolation semi-finals, Bottineau shut out Hatton-Northwood 9-0 and Kindred-Richland covered Carrington 5-0.
Lewis & Clark upsets
Lewis and Clark defeated the Kindred-Richland Vikings in an intense match-up Thursday evening to open the tournament as both teams brought their best game to the field. The Wildcats were determined to knock off the returning champions to make their own mark at the state tournament, and the Vikings were looking for a first round victory on their path to the championship.
Karna, as the Wildcats senior pitcher, threw powerful pitches throughout all seven innings while the Vikings struggled at the bat. He finished with 6 strike-outs.
Nicholas Milbrandt, K-R pitcher, fed the Wildcats his fair share of sharp pitches as Lewis & Clark battled at each bat. The Wildcats got on base in the third inning, when Aaron Schenfisch scored following a hit by Adam Birdsall, and Austin Lee scored following a hit by Chandler Karna.
The Vikings answered with a run scored, and the Wildcats dug deep to keep their lead. The Wildcats’ defense left the Vikings with runners stranded on base. Birdsall knocked down four fly balls, Nelson three, and Schenfisch caught two, including one that turned into a double play to Fjeldahl at first. Knudsvig and Lee each snagged a fly ball to hold the Vikings.
In other plays, catcher Gray gunned down a runner on second with a tag by Schenfisch, and Langan ripped down a line drive off third and nailed a throw to Fjeldahl on first.
It was an all-around great performance by the Wildcats. The Vikings didn’t expect the game they received as the pitching effort threw them off-balance, and the Wildcat defense halted their efforts when on base. Fans sat at the edge of their seats with each pitch, and Karna managed the intensity well as he took a deep breath before each pitch.
Behind the dugout, the Lewis & Clark crowd could hear Coach Nelson shouting, “Hey, have fun out there! Have fun!” The chatter in the dugout helped the players relax and feel as if they were at the home field.
The Wildcats left the diamond with a 2–1 upset over the number one ranked Vikings.
In other opening round action, W-W-C-S edged Bottineau 4-3, Grafton beat Hatton-Northwood 3-1, and Beulah stopped Carrington 8-1.