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Dustin Monke, Published August 10 2012

WF Patriots eliminated from Central Plains Regional

DICKINSON, N.D. – West Fargo scored two runs in the first inning, but it wasn’t enough to rattle Matt Thomas.

Thomas settled in after his Brookings, S.D., teammates scored six runs in the second inning en route to a 7-3 victory in an elimination game of the Central Plains Regional American Legion baseball tournament on Astoria Field at Southside Ballpark.

“Matt is the definition of a bulldog up there,” said coach Rob Hirrschoff, whose team stays alive with a 44-9 record. ‘He’s been outstanding for us all year long. He’s pitched a lot in the state tournament. He’s probably getting to the point where he’s a little fatigued. But it showed how much of a competitor he is.”

Thomas walked three West Fargo batters, hit two with pitches and watched a wild pitch score one of two Patriot runs in the first inning.

But Hirrschoff never second guessed himself. Nor did he send a reliever to the bullpen. He stuck with Thomas and it paid off.

Thomas pitched eight innings striking out nine and allowing four hits while hitting six batters and walking five. He also went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

“I haven’t had a start like that all year,” Thomas said with a smile. “My command wasn’t there or anything like that, you know. I was missing spots. I just hung with it and just kind of settled in after the first couple innings.”

As Thomas struggled early, it looked like West Fargo would have the upper hand.

Brock Evenson scored on a bases-loaded walk and Andy Young came home on a wild pitch in the first inning. But, the Patriots left three runners on base in the inning.

West Fargo (39-16), the North Dakota state champions, stranded 13 base runners in the game, giving them a total of 25 runners left on in two games at the tournament. The Patriots lost to Minnesota state champion Edina 3-2 on Thursday night.

“When you’ve got breaks like that, where you can’t get into your groove, you can’t get your pace set, there’s a batter hit here and a walk, you really can’t get hit after hit, it slows the game down,” West Fargo catcher Tucker Bucholz said. “It slows everyone’s rhythm down.”

The Patriots had their own pitching troubles too.

Starter Camran Bonnema had a solid first inning but couldn’t find his control in the second, walking the first two batters he faced and beaming the next three.

He hit two batters with the bases loaded to the tie game at 2. Riley Bullinger, Skyler Cary and Thomas then drove in runs on consecutive at-bats to give Brookings a 5-2 lead.

Reliever Willy Barker surrendered one run with a five-pitch, bases-loaded walk to Thomas McMacken that gave Brookings a 6-2 lead.

“Sometimes when that happens, the wheels come off a little bit,” West Fargo head coach Bill Ibach said. “It’s just hard. When you get behind, you start pressing with the bats and stuff. I thought we had pretty good bats and swung the bats well. We just hit the ball at people.”

West Fargo 200 100 0–3 4 2

Brookings 061 000 x–7 8 0

WF-Bonnema, Barker (2), Barclay (9) and Bucholz. B-Thomas, Cary (9) and Koenig. W–pitcher (record). L–pitcher (record).

Dustin Monke is the sports editor for the Dickinson (N.D.) Press