WEST FARGO — In a game that was up for grabs, West Fargo Sheyenne proved much more adept at pouncing on opportunities than its crosstown rival Tuesday night.
Drew Clouse had a go-ahead RBI single in the fifth, Alex Urlaub drove in three runs and got a critical out on the mound and the Mustangs advanced to the winner's bracket of the East Region baseball tournament with a 7-3 win over West Fargo in opening round play at Sheyenne High School.
Sheyenne looked to be firmly in command early. Behind RBI doubles by Carter Dodd and Urlaub, the Mustangs were coasting behind the arm of Lance Oster, who had 10 strikeouts and hadn't allowed a hit through four innings.
The Packer offense finally found its rhythm in the fifth, recording four hits, the biggest of which was a two-run Anthony Villanueva single that evened the game at two.
But a seemingly non-threatening at-bat quickly turned things the Mustangs' way in the bottom of the fifth. After the first two batters were retired, Urlaub and Dodd got things started with a walk and infield single.
Clouse then gave Sheyenne the lead back, bringing Urlaub home with a single up the middle.
The lead would balloon to 5-2 following an RBI single by Garrett Lund and a throwing error that brought home Grant Warkenthein.
"I knew they were going to make a run at us," Mustang coach Ryan Bodell said. "But when we came back and scored three runs, that was huge. I was so proud of our guys to come back after giving that lead up and staying with it and making plays.”
The Packers, who left the bases loaded in the fifth, looked primed for another big inning in the sixth when they again loaded the bases with no one out.
But the Mustang bullpen escaped the jam. Ryan Froemke came in and forced a 1-2-3 double play. Then following a walk, Urlaub struck out Brayden Jacobson to again strand three Packer runners on base, this time in a scoreless inning.
“I was just trusting the fast ball," Urlaub said of the inning's decisive out. "We were just trying to pound the zone.”
Urlaub then padded Sheyenne's lead further in the sixth with a two-run single.
Still confident in its ability to rebound, Packer coach Brett Peterson said his team has to move past the missed opportunities that doomed them Tuesday as they enter play Friday on the brink of elimination.
“Give them credit. They had the big at bats, they got the hits with runners in scoring position over the course of the game," Peterson said. "And we just didn’t. But the goal of reaching the state tournament is there. And we have to have short memories and we have to come out and play better baseball the rest of the weekend.”
Reaching state is a much simpler goal for the Mustangs, who are now just one game away from punching their ticket.
"We’ve got to win one more and we’re at state. That’s our first goal, then hopefully we can get in the EDC championship and hopefully take care of another goal,” Bodell said.
WF 000 020 1--3 5 7
WFS 101 032 x--7 9 0
Jacobson, Evenson (4), Grefsrud (6), Villanueva (6) and Jamieson. Oster, Fromke (6), Urlaub (6) and Clouse
W-- Oster. L--Evenson.