‘A good feeling’
Minot coach Jason Steele cradles his 11-month-old daughter, Jersey, in the cool home dugout. Sunlight beams in on his face and navy blue Metros cap. Jersey reaches for a reporter’s pen, coaxing a smile from her father. A pleasant ending to opening day at the Junior Legion state tournament Wednesday at Corbett Field.
Following a 4-1 first-round victory over the Jamestown Blues, Minot is three wins from a state championship and regional tournament berth.
“After Day 1, I’m very satisfied,” Steele said. “It’s definitely a good feeling.”
Minot pitcher Tyler Mosser notched a complete-game win to highlight a bevy of fine Metros performances. He said it may be his best outing all year.
“I felt pretty good,” said Mosser, who allowed nine hits and struck out three. “The strike zone was good and my pitches were hitting the plate.”
Mosser enjoyed a 3-0 lead before taking the mound. Minot (15-19) took advantage of a Jamestown error and plated three runs with two outs in the top of the first – playing as the visitor.
Center fielder Trevor Ringoen walked and then scored the game’s first run when Blues shortstop Tanner Lunzman’s errant throw caromed off the fence into right field, allowing Minot first baseman Dalton Cooper to reach second.
Catcher Cody Reynolds, who went 2 for 4, singled to left to score Cooper and then crossed home plate on second baseman Travis Walker’s triple to the center-field fence.
Steele said after giving up many early leads this season, opening the state tournament with a three-run cushion was refreshing.
“We had a lot of intensity early, which kind of dictated the tempo and the way we wanted to play the game,” Steele said. “I think our kids did a good job of taking control early and getting on the board right away.”
Jamestown (9-16) cut the lead to 3-1 with a two-out rally in the bottom of the third, but Ringoen ended the inning with a dazzling outfield assist to gun down Blues pitcher Peyton Walker at the plate.
“That was a big jump for us, big boost for us to get out of that inning and to keep that run off the board,” Steele said.
Neither team threatened to extend nor reduce the lead until the Metros played small ball in the sixth inning to reclaim a three-run lead.
Reynolds led off with a single and advanced to second on Travis Walker’s sacrifice bunt. He took third on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball before Peyton Walker induced two straight outs to prevent more damage.
Mosser closed out the final two innings with relative ease, facing eight batters. Steele ordered shortstop Conor Taney to warm up in the bullpen, but left his ace on the hill for the complete game.
“We talked about bringing someone else in, but we figured let’s just see how far he can take us here, see if he can get the seventh,” Steele said. “If we would’ve got in any trouble we were ready to bring someone else in, but we figured we’d let him finish what he started.”
Jamestown coach Kasey Gengler commended Minot’s play.
“They were a good ballclub,” Gengler said. “Comparable to the other teams we’ve played this year. I’d like to have another shot at them. Hopefully in this tournament we can play them again.”
Minot advanced to a quarterfinal matchup today at 4:30 p.m. with West Fargo. Jamestown faces Mandan at 11:30 a.m. in the double-elimination tournament’s losers’ bracket.
The Metros lost their regular-season contest against what Steele called a “well-coached, very disciplined” West Fargo squad. Taney welcomes the rematch.
“We know that they’re a beatable team,” said Taney, who went 3 for 3. “Last time we played them we didn’t play very good. They’re pretty scrappy, but if Hunter (Duttenhefer) pitches good and we take good approaches at the plate, we’ll be fine and I think we can win.”
Ryan Holmgren covers Legion baseball and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgrenMDN.