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Tom Mix, Published July 31 2012

Fargo, West Fargo pace Division I Legion field

FARGO – Baseball teams in North Dakota Division I American Legion have been looking up at two teams most of the summer.

Fargo Post 2 and West Fargo each had successful regular seasons and find themselves in familiar territory heading into the state tournament today at Dave Ressler Field in Mandan.

Post 2 (37-13) is the No. 1 seed and West Fargo (35-14) is the No. 2 seed, and both would like to see their seasons extend past Sunday at the Central Plains Regional on Aug. 9 in Dickinson.

Fargo, which plays the winner of today’s first-round game between Jamestown and Dickinson at 11 a.m. Thursday, has won 17 of its last 21 games. The Patriots take on defending state champions Mandan at 8:30 p.m. today.

The first-round bye is an added benefit for Fargo, but first-year Post 2 head coach Luke Rustad said he isn’t sure how advantageous.

“It depends on how you look at it,” said Rustad who has helped the team improve from the team’s 22-19-1 record a year ago. “The truth of the matter is every team in this state has played close games. Hopefully, it lines up well with our pitching, and we’ll see if it is an advantage.”

One thing that hasn’t been up for much monitoring this summer has been Fargo’s hitting. Post 2 features a potent lineup of dangerous hitters, and it all starts at the leadoff spot, where Jon Nygaard has flourished in this summer.

Nygaard – who is committed to play baseball at Rochester Community College this season – is batting .406 12 walks, 22 RBIs and 35 runs scored.

“Offensively, Jon, Matt Schalow and Connor Robley have been our most consistent hitters this year,” Rustad said.

Schalow, Post 2’s No. 3 hitter, is batting .357 with five home runs and 39 RBIs.

Robley leads Fargo with 51 RBIs and is batting .380 in the team’s cleanup spot. Of Robley’s 52 hits this summer, 23 have been for extra bases.

“I’ve been hitting well this summer,” said Schalow who will play baseball at Concordia. “We have a good hitting lineup and hits have just seemed to come.”

Hits have come in bunches for the Patriots as well, but sometimes the hits are not spread out as evenly as Patriots head coach Bill Ibach would like.

“The hitting will determine our success,” Ibach said. “It has been streaky at times. Sometimes we tear the cover off the ball, and sometimes we struggle.

“Our pitching and defense has been the most consistent things for us this year. We have a good hitting team, but we go through dry spells at times and don’t hit like we can.”

West Fargo catcher Tucker Bucholz has paced the Patriots all summer, hitting .496 with 48 RBIs and six home runs. Andy Young leads the team in RBIs with 72 and is batting .471. Young and Bucholz were a part of West Fargo’s Class A high school state championship earlier this year.

“For some of us, it’s our last year, and it would be cool to go out with two in the same year,” said Bucholz who will play baseball at Century Community College in White Bear Lake, Minn., next year. “Getting in that regional and the World Series would be awesome and a cool way to end it.”

On the mound for West Fargo, it has been Tanner Dahl (8-0, 1.83 ERA), Young (4-3, 3.58), Cameron Bonnema (5-2, 2.28) and Landon Uetz (6-0, 3.88).

“The whole season long, we have been improving,” Uetz said. “We split games with Grand Forks, Bismarck and Post 2. Those losses didn’t hurt us. We came back strong and didn’t have letdowns. I think it made us better rather than hurt us.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562

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