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Late offense lifts Lakeville North over West Des Moines

Lakeville North’s Benjamin Jensen, left, is congratulated by teammate Joey Larson during a game against West Des Moines on Thursday. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO – The early morning was no match for Lakeville North (Minn.) on Thursday, as the Panthers rolled to a 7-3 win over West Des Moines (Iowa) in the opening round of the American Legion Division I Central Plains Regional baseball tournament at Jack Williams Stadium.

A.J. Sayer certainly had no trouble waking up for the 10 a.m. start, as he went all nine innings for Lakeville North, striking out three and giving up two earned runs on one walk and 10 hits. Sayer is normally a strikeout pitcher, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning coming into the tournament, but he was more than happy to let his defense do some work.

“I was just trying to throw strikes and make them put the ball in play,” Sayer said. “They are a real aggressive team, so I was just trying to let the guys behind me do all the work.”

The early jitters went to West Des Moines starting pitcher John Bisignano, as he gave up a single and two walks to load the bases before he recorded an out. Bisignano nearly escaped, forcing a fielder’s choice and recording a strikeout, but two-out singles from Drew Stewart and Nick Oblak put Lakeville North up 3-0.

“It’s huge,” Lakeville North coach Jared Simon said of the win. “You could tell we had a bit of the early morning jitters, but we were able to break out toward the end. Right now we’re just consistent. We just need to keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”

Zevon Benoit’s single in the top of the second got West Des Moines within two and Nate Hunter’s sacrifice fly in the top of the third made it a 3-2 game. After Joey Larson put Lakeville North up 4-2 with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the fourth, Jake Lewton answered back for the Cougars with a two-out RBI single in the top of the seventh.

“They were hitting the ball,” Simon said. “They were able to put it in play, and that’s how we like it. We like our defense involved.”

Lakeville North (29-6) was able to get to West Des Moines (18-3) pitcher Nolan Reinhardt in the seventh and eighth to put the game away.

Two walks and a single loaded the bases to open the seventh and a sacrifice fly from Ben Jensen and an RBI single from Stewart each plated one to make it a 6-3 game.

Jensen added an RBI double in the bottom of the eighth and that was all Sayer needed, as he retired seven of the last eight batters he faced.

“This is huge for us,” Sayer said. “We know we survive another day automatically, so we’re just going to keep this momentum going for tomorrow.”

WDM 011 000 100–3 10 1

LN 300 100 21x–7 11 1

Bisignano, Reinhardt (7) and Hunter, Snuttjer (6). Sayer and Jensen. W–Sayer (3-1). L–Bisignano (3-1).

Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy is a sports reporter for the Forum. He's covered high school and college sports in Chicago, North Dakota and Minnesota since 2009 and, for some reason, has been given awards for doing so.

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