Metros drop into losers’ bracket after losing to West Fargo

West Fargo catcher Marcus Wohl drives a sacrifice fly to left field in the top of the fourth inning. … Second baseman Jacob Telander takes off from third base to tag up. … Minot left fielder Liam Owens fires a strike to catcher Cody Reynolds. … Close play at the plate. … Called safe.

From pitching to fielding to batting and, yes, even to close calls, nothing seemed to go right for the Minot Metros in an 11-1, six-inning loss to the West Fargo Aces in the Junior Legion state tournament Thursday at Corbett Field.

“A couple things didn’t go our way and then it just snowballed from there,” Metros coach Jason Steele said. “It just wasn’t our day, I guess.”

Aces pitcher Matt Hewitt tossed a four-hitter with six strikeouts and one walk as West Fargo (29-14) advanced to the semifinals where it will square off with Bismarck at 4:30 p.m. today. Minot (15-20) fell into the losers’ bracket and kicks off the third day of competition with a 9 a.m. contest against Fargo.

In the bottom of the first, the right-handed Hewitt strolled to the mound with a 2-0 lead.

Minot pitcher Hunter Duttenhefer struggled with his control early, beaming a batter and dealing three walks in the opening frame. West Fargo’s first-inning runs came on zero hits and one error.

“I thought we were disciplined early, kind of let (Duttenhefer) dig himself into a little bit of a hole,” West Fargo coach Zach Wentz said. “As the game went on, we stayed on him and stayed aggressive and had some big hits.”

Duttenhefer pitched all six innings and had seven strikeouts, but allowed eight earned runs on nine hits and three first-inning walks.

“We just have to forget this loss and hopefully bounce back,” Duttenhefer said. “Hopefully send Fargo home and keep on rolling after that.”

When Hewitt, who struck out six and walked one, took the hill in the second, he enjoyed a 5-0 buffer.

“It’s nice to know that when you have a big lead, you don’t need to pitch your best even though you obviously want to,” Hewitt said.

Reynolds, who had two of Minot’s four hits, singled and scored in the second to reduce West Fargo’s lead to four. But Hewitt only allowed two more baserunners the rest of the contest.

“He’s got a lot of movement on his fastball,” Wentz said. “We just preach to him to stay in the zone. He keeps our infielders busy when he throws strikes.”

West Fargo scored two earned runs on three hits in the fourth inning and notched four runs in the sixth with the help of three Minot errors.

After the game, as chatter and applause still echoed from West Fargo’s cheering section into the Metros’ dugout, Steele told his team two personal stories.

The first, from his playing days: Nearly out of the tournament, his ballclub fought off each elimination game in the losers’ bracket and finished the double-elimination tournament as champions.

The second, from his coaching days: Nearly a lock as tournament champs, his ballclub breezed into the championship, lost twice and finished as runner-up.

“The reason I shared those stories with them is because they gotta understand that it is possible,” Steele said. “It’s a double-elimination tournament for a reason. They can find a way to come back. They just have to win a few more games.”

Ryan Holmgren covers Legion baseball and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgrenMDN.