Top-seeded Wolves aim to limit errors
There were times during the Region 7 tournament where the Watford City baseball team looked like a championship ballclub.
There were also moments where the Wolves appeared lost in the field, committing errors uncharacteristic of a team hoping to capture its first state title.
Watford City coach Justin Johnsrud hopes the team that put up 31 runs in the region tournament shows up and not the one that committed 12 errors in three games when the top-seeded Wolves (22-1) play Midkota in the first round of the state tournament today at 4:30 p.m. in Jamestown.
“We hadn’t struggled like that in the field the entire year,” Johnsrud said. ” It was uncharacteristic, maybe some nerves. We were the No. 1 seed going into that tournament undefeated in the regular season against all those teams. Sometimes those games everybody thinks you’re supposed to win are the toughest.”
It’s Watford City’s second appearance at the state tournament in program history, the only other coming in 2011. The Wolves are still searching for their first state-tournament victory as they finished 0-3 that year. Johnsrud, the Region 7 coach the year, knows how critical just one error can be, especially at the state tournament where anyone can beat anyone.
“We realize that any one of those other seven teams down there are all quality teams and have just as good of chance of winning as we do,” he said.
The Wolves average 9.8 runs per game and have scored 10 or more runs in 14 contests.
While the defense behind the mound hasn’t been as sharp recently as they’d like, the Wolves’ starting pitchers have silenced opponents’ bats. Andrew Sampsel, Dakota Neether and Brandon Allex are Watford City’s top three hurlers. The Wolves surrender just 2.1 runs per game. They’ve shut out opponents eight times this season and limited three others to a single run.
Sampsel will get the first-round start against Midkota.
“I’ve heard they’re a pretty good hitting team,” Sampsel said. “We’re going to start off working the fastball and maybe working a little offspeed here and there.”
Watford City’s only loss this season came to Shiloh Christian, which is not among the eight-team field. A Wolves win would set up a semifinal with either fourth-seeded Velva-Drake-Anamoose or Harvey-Wells County.