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Aaron Saunders , Published August 01 2012

Wahpeton slips past Casselton at Legion Division II tournament

LaMOURE, N.D. – With 39 victories coming into the North Dakota Division II American Legion baseball state tournament, wins have not been hard to come by for Wahpeton.

But on Wednesday, Post 20 had to battle to pick up a 1-0 victory against two-time defending state champion Casselton.

“It’s a big win to get under our belt right away,” said Wahpeton head coach Chris Kappes. “Those 1-0 ball games are fun to be a part of, fun for the fans to watch. As a coach, you like to see a couple more runs, make things a little more easy, but it’s a big game for us. It’s a heck of a draw for us to have to play Casselton in the first round, but we knew we were going to be in for a battle.”

A scoreless pitchers’ duel ensued for the first five innings between starting pitchers Ellery Bresnahan of Casselton and Jeremy Bontjes of Wahpeton.

That changed when Wahpeton second basemen Ethan Meide stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning. Meide lined a base hit to left field to drive in Bontjes for the only run of the game.

“I knew it was a big hit, and a big moment right there with people on third and second. I just tried putting the bat on the ball and putting it in play and was rewarded with a hit,” Meide said. “Casselton is two-time defending state champs, so we knew if we got this game, we would be in a good situation.”

After Meide’s big hit, Bontjes came back out in the seventh inning and slammed the door shut with a perfect inning.

“I knew they were good hitters because they won state three out of four of the last years and I just stayed in my approach of getting ahead. I knew if I stayed in my approach, I would be OK,” said Bontjes, who pitched a complete game in his first state tournament appearance.

“I just came back. I couldn’t play in the state tournament last year because I had shoulder surgery. It was a long recovery. I couldn’t pitch through most of high school ball, and I started to start halfway through Legion ball.”

Bontjes walked one batter and allowed just four hits.

“He is a bulldog,” Kappes said. “He has ice in his veins. He’s a pure athlete. And if you’re a fan of North Dakota and you don’t know the name Jeremy Bontjes, you don’t watch sports.”

Casselton 000 000 0–0 4 0

Wahpeton 000 001 x–1 3 1

E. Bresnahan and J. Roesler. J. Bontjes and A. Lunneborg. W–Bontjes. L–Bresnahan.

Grafton 4, Lisbon 3

It took extra innings, but when the dust cleared, Grafton emerged victorious from its opening-round game against Lisbon with a thrilling 4-3 victory Wednesday.

“We hung tough. That’s kind of the thing with this team,” Grafton coach Chad Kliniske said. “We like to stay close, wait for our break and capitalize.

“We had one big inning. We had several other innings where we put runners on,” Kliniske said. “But we couldn’t get anything across, and you know, we just hang in there, hang in there, hang in there and something good will happen.”

Grafton jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning after a couple of bunts were botched by Lisbon infielders.

“The third or fourth inning when they scored their three runs, we had two opportunities to recover bunts and we threw the ball away,” Lisbon coach Brad Bittner. “I felt my kids, even though that team (Grafton) has 41 wins, and came into the tournament with the most wins in the tournament, played definitely to their level. We just had a bad situation when we threw two bunt plays away and helped them get their three runs in that inning.”

Despite being down for almost the entire game, Lisbon showed no signs of quit and finally broke through in the top of the seventh inning. An RBI triple by right fielder Hunter Mairs brought Lisbon within one, and set up a sacrifice fly from the bat of center fielder Wyatt Aberle that knotted it up 3-3 and forced extra innings.

“Hunter Mairs in the top of the seventh inning with a runner on first base came up big for us with nobody out, crushed one to left center gap and we were able to score Derek Lyons,” said Bittner.

Hopes of a Lisbon win were waning in the bottom of the ninth after a one-out triple was crushed to right centerfield by Grafton outfielder Austin Campbell, and were ended when Zach Suda ripped an RBI Single to left center field off Lisbon pitcher Derek Lyons to win the game.

“It’s tough to get a loss, but I felt fine going nine innings. It just didn’t happen for us today,” Lyons said. “They’re a good team, but we made a few mistakes and it just cost us.”

L 010 000 200–3 8 1

G 000 300 001–4 8 0

Lyons and Bittner. Villareal and Dusek. W–Villareal. L–Lyons.

LaMoure 3, Garrison 0

Tanner Carlson pitched a complete-game shutout as LaMoure picked up a first-round victory Wednesday.

LaMoure scored all three of its runs in the fourth inning.

L 000 300 0–3 7 0

G 000 000 0–0 5 0

Carlson and Thielges. Crawford and Haugen. W–Carlson. L–Crawford.

Washburn 10, Velva 4

Washburn scored three runs in the second inning and tacked on four more in the third on its way to a victory against Velva in first-round play Wednesday.

V 020 011 0– 4 6 0

W 034 102 x–10 14 1

Dean, Kuntz (3) and Podoll. Sailer, Kurle (6) and Henke. W–Sailer. L–Dean.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Aaron Saunders at (701) 241-5549