Watford City survives Midkota scare

JAMESTOWN The first four innings of Thursday’s state quarterfinal contest between No. 1 Watford City and Midkota were as tense as they were scoreless.

But in the fifth, the Wolves ran wild.

“I thought we were pressing a little bit at the plate, trying not to make a mistake instead of just getting up there and swinging the bat like we’ve done all year long,” Watford city coach Justin Johnsrud said. “We came around in that fifth inning. Hopefully it’s better tomorrow.”

Watford City notched five in the fifth, boosting the top-ranked Wolves into the semifinals with a 5-1 win over Midkota at James Brown Stadium. They’ll take on Velva-Drake-Anamoose in the nightcap today.

But the Mustangs were the initial leaders after Jayden Grover’s two-out, fifth-inning single, which plated infielder Carter Aarestad to give Midkota a 1-0 lead.

Trailing late in games can be unnerving, especially in the state tournament.

It wasn’t a problem for the Wolves. They’ve been down before.

“We’ve been down a run a number of times this year,” Johnsrud said. “Like the guys always say, we’ve gotta score one to win anyway. Mindsetwise, that doesn’t really bother us.”

Watford City starter Andrew Sampsel put in a strong performance on the mound, giving up one earned run on four hits and three walks, striking out seven.

“I was comfortable,” Sampsel said. “The first inning, it took me a little bit to get settled in, but after that I got in a rhythm. I had good fastball command for the most part, threw a couple good curveballs. I felt good.”

Sophomore catcher Quade Shores went 2-4 from the leadoff spot for the Wolves driving in the final two runs of the fifth inning on a sharp single to left.

Grover gave up three earned runs on eight hits and three walks in a losing effort.

The Wolves’ run continues today, and as the No. 1 seed, there are always expectations for success.

But they aren’t concerned with rankings.

“The only thing I know is that we get to bat last every game and we’ll be in the third-base dugout,” Johnsrud said. “By no means do we feel comfortable at all. Any one of these seven teams can beat us on any given night.”

With the loss, Midkota battles Harvey-Wells County today at 1:30 p.m. in a consolation semifinal.

Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.