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Early offense propels Valley City at ND Class 1A state Legion tourney

Valley City’s Jacob Miller (2) celebrates after scoring against Watford City during a North Dakota Class 1A Legion state baseball tournament game on Thursday. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

WAHPETON, N.D. – Armed with a five-run lead before he even took the mound, Valley City starting pitcher Jesse Johnson was charged with preserving the advantage.

Johnson shined in Valley City’s 7-4 win over Watford City on Thursday during the North Dakota Class 1A American Legion baseball state tournament at John Randall Field.

“Seeing that five-run cushion was nice,” said Johnson, who recorded eight strikeouts in the complete-game victory. “It allowed me to get comfortable early in the game and just throw strikes. (Watford City) is a good hitting team and I knew I wasn’t going to hold them to nothing. I just had to keep the damage to a minimum.”

Valley City sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning with Ben Baasch and Spencer Meyer each connecting for RBI singles.

“When you give a five-run lead to Jesse Johnson he is going to do some good things,” Valley City head coach Kyle Roelfsema said. “He kept us in the game, and the boys made some great plays behind him.”

Valley City’s lead ballooned to 7-0 in the top of the fourth inning when Jacob Miller connected for an RBI double that scored Dalton Ondracek. Chase Carpenter added an RBI single that scored Miller later in the inning.

Valley City advances to play the winner of Wahpeton and Casselton at 7 p.m. today. Matched with its win against Beulah on Wednesday, Thursday’s victory marked the first time Valley City has won back-to-back games this season.

“We are starting to hit our stride,” Roelfsema said. “We knew all along that we had the tools to be a good team, but it was just a matter of putting it all together and I think we are doing that.”

Johnson retired the first nine batters he faced before Watford City’s Dakota Neether led off the fourth inning with a single.

Watford City scored two runs in the fourth, getting a two-run single off the bat of first baseman Andrew Sampsel. Johnson got Mitchell Liebel to ground into a double play to end the rally.

“We had opportunities with runners on base and our big guys up, but we didn’t cash in,” Watford City head coach Patrick Spacher said. “(Johnson) made some good pitches to get some outs.”

Watford City added a run in the fifth inning, but left the bases loaded when Johnson got slugger Trent Grimes to fly out to centerfield.

Watford City plays Velva in an elimination game at 4 p.m. today.

“We’ve played Velva five times this year and every one of those games was pretty close,” Spacher said. “We’ll have to put the ball in play and avoid allowing Velva a big inning.”

VC 500 200 0–7 8 1

WC 000 210 1–4 8 3

J. Johnson and Miller. Neether, Milstead (5) and Liebel. W–J. Johnson. L–Neether.

Loser-out games

Beulah 1, Grafton 0

G 000 000 0–0 5 2

B 000 010 x–1 2 0

Baldwin and Heuchert. A. Battest and Melmer. W–A. Battest. L–Baldwin.

Velva 13, Makoti 1

V 036 010 3–13 14 1

M 000 010 0–1 6 4

Kuntz, Bauer (7) and Mack. J. Nelson, Neshem (7) and A. Nelson. W–Kuntz. L–Nelson.

Tom Mix

Tom Mix is the North Dakota high school sports reporter. He's worked at The Forum for five years. He was the 2013 North Dakota sportswriter of the year, an award that is sponsored by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to  

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