Owens, Metros shock Watford City

As one of three Junior Legion teams competing in the Minot Qdoba’s Baseball tournament this weekend, the Minot Metros went into Friday’s meeting with Watford City – a Class A team – as unquestioned underdogs.

But the final result proved doubters wrong. Despite going down 1-0 in the first, the Metros rallied for 12 runs over the next six innings at Corbett Field, overwhelming the Walleye to the tune of a 12-2 victory.

Watford City’s normally potent lineup – more than half of which contains starters from this season’s Class B state championship squad – was tamed by the left arm of Minot starter Liam Owens, who earned his second victory of the season after limiting the Walleye to just four hits during his six innings on the hill.

“I didn’t expect to 10-run them,” Owens said. “I just knew my job, and I went up there and threw strikes with a good defense behind me.”

Such a lopsided score was unexpected, even by Minot coach Jason Steele.

But he said it from the beginning. His team’s gameplan is the same every night.

“We had a good approach at the plate, Liam threw really well and we made plays behind him,” Steele said. “We played a really clean baseball game, and I thought our kids did a really good job at the plate getting themselves into hitter’s counts and attacking fastballs.”

The Metros wasted no time getting started.

Leadoff man Noah Tate golfed a single to right and soon found himself at third after a stolen base and a wild pitch. He scored moments later with Broden Wunderlich’s groundout to second.

Shortly after, consecutive singles from Owens and Conor Taney initiated a secondary threat from the Metros in the first. Two batters later, Jesse Roberts brought them both in with a single to center.

Three more in the second made it 6-1 in favor of the home team. Three innings later, the Metros led by nine.

“It’s obvously nice to start off with a win,” Steele said. “Like I said, we’re gonna try and win all four. We’re just gonna try and play our baseball.

“(This win) will give us confidence because we know that we’ve got a good feeling right now, we’ve got good things happening for us. We’re making plays, our pitchers are throwing strikes and we’re hitting the baseball. So hopefully it carries over.”

Watford City coach Pat Spacher, a former teammate of Steele’s at Minot State, had nothing but praise for the Metros after the game.

He also had words for his defense, which committed five errors.

“We didn’t play very good defense. They hit the ball. We didn’t,” Spacher said. “Their pitcher did a nice job and they played good defense and hit the baseball. We could have located our pitches a little bit better and made a few more plays defensively behind them.”

Watford City’s shining moment was a leadoff home run from Trent Grimes in the fourth inning, a solo shot which made it 7-2. Grimes also homered in the opener of a Class A American Legion doubleheader against Velva on Tuesday.

The Walleye look to bounce back with a pair of games today, the first of which is scheduled for noon against the Mandan Chiefs at Corbett Field. Their second game will be against the Bismarck Representatives, a 5 p.m. contest at Jack Hoeven Park.

Minot hopes to improve on its strong start with a 2:30 p.m. game against Richland County (Mont.) at Corbett Field.

Joe Mellenbruch covers legion baseball and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.