Clifton propels Carrington into title game

LANGDON – Logan Clifton has enjoyed a productive 24 hours for Carrington Post 25.

Less than a day removed from his pivotal role in Carrington’s comeback victory over Enderlin, Clifton took the mound again Friday during his team’s 5-0 win against Thompson in the third round of the Class B American Legion baseball state tournament.

His performance personified efficiency as he tossed a complete-game shutout – Carrington’s second of the tournament – on four hits, two walks and two strikeouts.

Post 25 committed no errors while converting all 19 of its putout opportunities.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Clifton, one of three 19-year-olds on the Carrington roster. “We’ve never made it this far, and to do it with this group of people is amazing. It’s been a blast, and there’d be no better way to end it than with a state championship.”

The victory cements Carrington’s place in Sunday’s title game, yet a few questions remain unanswered regarding their potential opponent.

Post 25 battles Enderlin in a rematch at 5 p.m. today. If Carrington wins, the title game will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday and their opponents will need to win twice to steal first place.

A loss to the Railcats would level the field, setting up a winner-take-all contest at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Enderlin nearly clipped Carrington in the second round – a 4-3, eight-inning result – something that Post 25 coach Tim Ranum hasn’t forgotten. He knows that if his team intends to beat the Railcats again, his players will need to hit like they did against Thompson, if not better.

“I don’t think Enderlin’s gonna be held to three runs like they were last time,” he said. “It seemed like everybody – top to bottom – was hitting tonight, and that’s what we saw in the region tournament. That’s what I expected coming into state.

“Hopefully our sticks show up. We’re gonna need to score even more runs to win.”

Carrington recorded its highest totals in runs (5) and hits (10) against Post 118, but it also stranded 10 runners on base, half of which were left in scoring position.

Thompson stranded seven runners of its own while also committing four errors in the field, two of which came in a three-run Carrington seventh.

“They got that first run, and I think we started to press a little bit and got out of our comfort zone,” Thompson coach Brady Schwab said. “I tip my hat to their pitcher. He threw well enough, and we didn’t play well enough defensively. We had a heck of an effort on the mound – Calen (Schwabe) threw well enough to win any state tournament game – but we didn’t have everybody else getting the job done around him.”

Schwabe pitched all seven innings for Post 118, surrendering five runs – three earned – on 10 hits and four walks. He struck out 11 Carrington batters, including three straight in the first inning.

Carrington drew first blood in the third.

After a pair of quick outs, Post 25 catcher and leadoff man Easton Paeper sent a shot to deep center, coaxing a full sprint from Thompson outfielder Malek Larimer. The ball found Larimer’s glove, but only for a moment as it bounced from his mitt and onto the center-field grass.

Paeper was awarded a triple on the play. Two batters later, Brady Smith drove him in with a single to left.

In the sixth, Post 25 doubled its lead shortly after Alex Jarrett’s leadoff single to center. Another single and two errors from Thompson shortstop Brandon Walsh brought Jarrett in to score, making it 2-0.

Ranum knows his team is in for a stiff test against Enderlin, which certainly hasn’t forgotten Thursday’s extra-inning dramatics.

“They’re gonna have their backs against the wall, so they’re gonna be fighting to the death. We wanna try and match that intensity,” Ranum said. “Hopefully we can play another good ballgame.

“We’re excited for the opportunity. Right now, we’re just enjoying the ride.”

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