Aggies march on

Velva-Drake-Anamoose’s region title dreams took a blow following the sixth inning of its 5-4 Region 6 tournament championship game victory against Bishop Ryan on Tuesday at Corbett Field.

The Aggies loaded the bases with no outs in a tie ballgame – a golden opportunity to bring in the go-ahead run – but came up empty.

With the state tournament within reach, V-D-A had to keep grinding.

“It was definitely disappointing that we couldn’t score there,” V-D-A senior Drew Effertz said, “but we were confident that we could go and get some outs.”

Having relieved junior starter Brady Engebretson in the sixth, Effertz struck out two in a perfect seventh.

Then, with two outs and another V-D-A bases-loaded threat brewing in the bottom of the inning, sophomore Shad Vedaa delivered sharp single into left field, bringing in sophomore pinch runner Kobe Bright to score. Their fourth win over Ryan this season punched the Aggies’ ticket to the state tournament for the first time since 2011.

“It was the perfect time for a game winner: two outs, bottom of the seventh,” Vedaa said. “We’re planning on taking state. All the way.”

Like their semifinal contest Monday, Ryan led the Aggies early thanks to an RBI hit from senior Austin Eggl, who drove a first-inning single into right field to score senior leadoff man Nick Berentson.

The Aggies responded with four runs over the next two innings, helped by a Ryan throwing error.

V-D-A started the game with three straight singles, leading to first-inning runs from senior Brad Dean and junior Isaac Effertz. Junior Marcus Mack drove in Dean with a sacrifice fly, but a subsequent Ryan throwing error allowed runners to advance to second and third. The next at-bat, Engebretson plated Isaac Effertz with another sacrifice fly.

The Lions finished the game with six miscues in the field, matching Monday’s total against V-D-A.

“They always seem to score when we can’t make the play,” said Ryan coach Brent Nelson, who previously announced he will step down at the end of the season. “But we had a chance. I’m happy with our team. I know they’re gonna do great things next year.”

Down 4-1, the Lions came roaring back in the third.

With the bases loaded and junior Tanner Sanders at the plate, a passed ball allowed Berentson to score for the second time, leaving runners stranded on second and third with two outs.

On the next pitch, Sanders tied it with a two-run double to deep left.

“That’s a heck of a ballteam,” said V-D-A coach Matt Weidler, named 2014 Region 6 coach of the year Tuesday. “Our guys battled. They found a way to win the game, and at the end of the day, all that matters is that we won the ballgame.”

Ryan senior Mason Kramer was named the region’s outstanding senior athlete, but he wasn’t in the lineup on Tuesday, nor was starting center fielder Brady Bosch.

Both players were sidelined due to injuries sustained against V-D-A on Monday; Kramer with a strained hamstring and Bosch with concussionlike symptoms.

Youth was prevalent in the Ryan lineup.

Freshman Derek Bartsch filled in for Kramer at first base, classmate Eli Stewart got the nod at second and Jesse VerBruggen started on the mound. He pitched the entire game, surrendering five runs on 11 hits.

After a difficult first two innings, VerBruggen settled down, keeping Ryan in a position to win.

“He probably wasn’t even expecting to pitch today,” Nelson said. “But he did a great job the way he composed himself.”

With the loss, the Lions miss out on the state tournament for the third time in the past four seasons.

It’ll be V-D-A’s 27th state tournament appearance. The Aggies last won the state title in 2010 over Ryan.

Weidler is content to take things slow.

“One game at a time right now,” he said. “That’s all we’re gonna worry about. When we find out our opponent, we’ll worry about that. All we’re concerned about is that first game on Thursday.”

The state tournament begins Thursday in Jamestown.

Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and

general assignments.

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@Mellenbruch_MDN.