SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — As Taylor Parrett readied for his start on championship Sunday at the American Legion Central Plains Regional tournament, the Fargo Post 2 pitcher thought about his baseball past.
His past also included big-game experience.
"I actually remembered sitting in the dugout and I almost had a little flashback to when we were 15 (years old)," Parrett said. "I think that helped my confidence a little bit."
Parrett was referring to the 15-year-old Babe Ruth team he pitched for at the 2015 Midwest Plains Regional tournament. He delivered in the regional title game with six scoreless innings to help that Fargo team make the Babe Ruth World Series.
"It was more remembering that we've done it before," Parrett said.
Parrett did it again Sunday with Post 2. The right-hander pitched a complete-game shutout against Excelsior, Minn., to force a second championship game. Fargo then earned a 3-2 victory in the winner-take-all second title game, which earned Post 2 a trip to the American Legion World Series for the first time since 1992.
Parrett pointed out the 15-year-old team that went to the World Series also had to beat a Minnesota state champion from the Twin Cities like Post 2 needed to Sunday.
"The nerves were high, but I was ready to go," Parrett said.
Post 2 (51-6) is scheduled to play Idaho Falls Post 56 at 3 p.m. (CST) Thursday, Aug. 15, in Shelby, N.C., to start pool play at the American Legion World Series. Post 2 made previous trips in 1969, 1989 and 1992.
"It's awesome. It's crazy to be part of something like this, knowing that we made history," Parrett said.
Parrett was named the most valuable player at the Central Plains Regional, pitching 11 scoreless innings and earning two victories. In Post 2's 8-0 victory against Excelsior on Sunday, Parrett pitched seven scoreless innings, allowed five hits and struck out 10 batters with two walks.
Excelsior defeated Fargo 17-11 in the opening round of the regional, forcing Post 2 to win five consecutive games to win the tournament. Post 2 head coach Luke Rustad said Parrett's performance against a high-powered Excelsior offense was key for championship Sunday. The Minnetonka-based team was 56-2 heading into the final day.
"I think his performance set the tone for the day," Rustad said. "To kind of show that they can be vulnerable. ... Taylor's performance was unbelievable."
In his 11 innings at the regional tournament, Parrett allowed six hits, no runs, struck out 13 batters and walked three. Parrett (10-0) lowered his season ERA to 0.97. In 58 innings this season, including 11 starts, he has 80 strikeouts with 25 walks.
"It's pretty surreal," Parrett said of not allowing a run at the regional. "You don't expect that."
Parrett returned to Post 2 after redshirting at North Dakota State last season. Even though he didn't play during his first year of college, The 6-foot, 185-pound Parrett said that experience helped him this summer.
"I was a lot better mentally this year," said Parrett, a super senior in his fourth season with Post 2.
After Excelsior's 17-11 victory against Post 2 to start the regional, Fargo responded with a 13-1 victory against Sioux Falls West, an 11-0 victory against Oshkosh, Wis., and a 3-2 win against Appleton, Wis. That set the stage for Sunday's back-to-back wins against Excelsior, which was undefeated in the double-elimination tournament entering the final day.
Post 2 pitching allowed five runs over the final five games in the Central Plains Regional. Rustad said since the team had a 26-game winning streak during the regular season, Post 2 didn't panic after that loss against Excelsior.
"I think a lot of that stems from early in the year where we were able to string together longer winning streaks," Rustad said. "They're a pretty confident group. I don't think they were worried about winning or losing, they were just ready to go play a game."
Parrett was in right field for the final out in the second title game. Post 2 pitcher Austin Manuel struck out Excelsior clean-up hitter Mike Sturek looking to end the game. Parrett doesn't remember too much after that as he raced to the infield to celebrate with his teammates.
"The first thing I thought to myself is that would be sweet if he ended the game with a strikeout here," Parrett said as he watched that final at-bat. "By the time we (the outfielders) got there, the dog pile was half over because we had to run for so long."
Post 2 enters the American Legion World Series averaging 8.8 runs per game with a .372 team batting average. Fargo has a 2.57 team ERA through 57 games.
"I think the biggest thing is you sensed from Day 1 is that we believed," Parrett said. "Since Day 1 we had a mindset. We had a winning attitude."