SHELBY, N.C. — Scoreless through three innings, Idaho Falls Post 56’s offense woke up for multiple runs in each of the remaining innings on its way to a 7-3 victory over Fargo Post 2 on the first day of pool play the American Legion World Series on Thursday.
"We'll find out what we're made of," Post 2 coach Luke Rustad said. "Obviously, we could play a lot better on the defensive side of things. There was nerves. Not sure how you get here and there's still nerves, but we decided we were not going to play up to the capabilities."
Fargo is off Friday, but are scheduled to play games Saturday and Sunday. Post 2 will take on North Carolina at 3 p.m. Saturday and Massachusetts at 3 p.m. on Sunday. All games will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
Post 2 trailed 7-1 heading into the top of the seventh inning, but did not go quietly in the program's first trip to the Legion World Series since 1992. They loaded the bases with one out without a hit. Pinch hitter Jonas Sanders drove in two runs with a single to cut the lead to four. A walk got the tying run to the plate and Idaho brought in Jaxon Sorenson to pitch.
Sorenson induced a double play to end the game.
"I just came and tried to get the ball over the plate and throw strikes and let my defense work behind me," Sorenson said.
Pitchers were the story early with Idaho Falls’ Caden Christensen and Fargo’s Blake Anderson dealing.
The first real threat of the game came in the bottom of the third when Idaho Falls put two runners on twice with the heart of its lineup coming up. Fargo catcher Chandler Ibach gunned down a runner trying to steal third and Christensen induced a groundout to get out of trouble.
That left the game scoreless into the fourth, when Fargo broke through.
After each of the first nine Post 2 batters made outs, the top of the lineup rallied to get a run across the second time through the lineup. Zach Kluvers got the team's first hit of the game with a one-out liner to center and went to third on a Cole Hage double. Brayden Koenig hit a sacrifice fly to right to bring home Kluvers and give Fargo the lead.
Idaho Falls responded in the bottom of the frame, as Andrew Gregersen opened the inning with a walk. Sorenson followed with a single and two errors on the play allowed Gregersen to come around to score.
"I thought infield especially, just a few players looked like they were rushed. Just some things I hadn't seen ever or in a long time with some guys," Rustad said. "When they weren't getting success early, our body language has to improve. We'll find out what we're made of. We didn't show ourselves well with the adversity we faced."
After a walk, Sorenson was able to come home on a single by Nick Layland.
"We hit the ball hard the first three innings, we just couldn’t find any holes,” Sorenson said “We tried to work counts and get a few free bases and got a few big hits and we needed them."
Anderson's high pitch count forced an early removal despite a good start. He pitched four innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits and four walks, while striking out five.
In his place, Austin Manuel came on in relief and was greeted rudely by the Northwest champions. Tavyn Lords worked a walk and regional tournament MVP Randon Hostert moved him to second with a single. Gregersen intended to move the two runners along, but his bunt caused a wild throw to double the lead. Sorenson walked to load the bases and a pair of sacrifice flies from Alex Cortez and Nick Layland pushed the lead to 5-1.
With a four-run lead, Idaho Falls chose to remove Christensen after 5 1/3 innings and 59 pitches, saving him for Sunday’s game. If he had pitched 61 or more pitches he would be required to have three days of rest and be ineligible to pitch for the remainder of the pool play games this weekend. He finished with just one run allowed on three hits.
Jace Hanson, on in relief, allowed one runner in the rest of the sixth inning but got a diving stop from Cortez at shortstop and a strikeout to end the frame.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Hostert fell behind in the count 0-2 once again but battled, fouling off three pitches before padding the lead with a two-run homer to left field.
“All game they worked the curveball, so I sat on that and adjusted to fastballs and just tried to foul them off, and when I got the curveball, I got a couple of hits,” Hostert said.