Mavericks move on

MAKOTI – Makoti entered Wednesday’s Class A West Region American Legion baseball tournament tilt well aware of the challenges Beulah presented.

Facing an already potent lineup in the tournament’s top seed, the Mavericks needed something special from starting pitcher Austin Lee to stifle the Cyclones. And they got it.

Lee kept Beulah off the scoreboard with a complete-game shutout, allowing just five hits and two walks en route to a 2-0 Makoti win. He struck out seven Beulah batters, including three straight in the second inning.

Now 2-0 in tournament play, the Mavericks await the winner of today’s match up between Velva and Watford City, which begins at 11 a.m.

“I trust each and every one of these guys,” said Lee, not far removed from offseason shoulder surgery. “We showed how good we are today and how well we can play as a team. It’s great to get a win.”

After allowing just two hits in the first three innings, Beulah starter Pat Becker gave up three straight singles on seven pitches to start the fourth, loading the bases for Makoti third baseman Adam Knudsvig.

Facing a 2-2 count, Knudsvig sent a sharp grounder to Beulah third baseman Devin Sardelli, who could only manage one out on the play with a throw to first. The groundout scored Lucas Wollschlager for the game’s first run.

The Cyclones nearly equalized in the fifth after Becker was plunked on the fourth pitch of the inning, followed shortly by a Landon Battest single to put runners on the corners with one out.

But solid defense proved a strong ally for Makoti throughout the game. The next two pitches brought an end to the threat with a 6-4 fielder’s choice and a sharp flyout to center.

The Mavericks committed no errors, executing all 14 of their putout opportunities.

“Errors have killed us all year, but today it was solid defense for us all around,” Makoti coach Kyle Giesen said. “The infield stepped up huge. It was pretty impressive. The kids came to play, and that’s what you have to expect.”

Makoti’s second run came in the sixth, induced by Beulah’s second defensive miscue of the night.

Wollschlager took Becker’s first offering of the inning to shallow center field for a bloop single, followed by a pair of wild pitches that put him on third.

Becker fanned Makoti’s next batter, J.P. Guerrero, on five pitches, but his final offering found the dirt, giving Guerrero the chance to reach base safely. Beulah catcher Evan Mellmer turned to make the play at first, but his throw sailed into right field, granting Guerrero first base while allowing Wollschlager to score.

“We’ll see what happens over the next few days,” Giesen said. “We’re hoping to take it all the way.”

Despite being pinned down for much of the game, Beulah nearly stole it in the seventh.

After two quick strikeouts brought the Cyclones to their final out, pinch-hitter Josh Remmick drew a full-count walk to keep the game alive. On the next pitch, Beulah leadoff man Hayden Norton blasted a double to deep center – the only extra-base hit for either team – putting a pair of runners in scoring position with the meat of the lineup to bat.

But the threat was short-lived. Shortstop Alec Battest flew out to right to end the game on Lee’s next offering.

The Cyclones will be keen to forget Wednesday’s loss quickly. They play Washburn at 2 p.m. today in a loser-out contest.

One win qualifies them for the state tournament.

“That’s all we want,” Beulah coach Ryan Bodell said. “We’ve just gotta come ready to play and shake this one off. I think we have enough depth to will ourselves back, hopefully into the championship game.”

Today’s winner between Velva and Watford City will battle the Mavericks at 11 a.m. Friday for a berth in the championship game.

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