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Tom Mix, Published August 04 2013

Post 2 edges West Fargo for Class A American Legion baseball state championship

WEST FARGO – Minutes after Fargo lost the first championship game to West Fargo on Sunday, Post 2 head coach Luke Rustad felt that his team’s fortunes were starting to look up.

Rustad had won the coin flip, which determined whether Post 2 or the Patriots would be the home team in the deciding second championship game.

Winning the flip was just the beginning, as Post 2’s good fortunes continued with starting pitcher Gunnar Linstaedt throwing seven solid innings in Fargo’s 5-2 victory over the Patriots to win the North Dakota Class A American Legion state baseball championship at Veterans Memorial Field.

West Fargo (40-18) forced a second title game by scoring a 9-3 win over Post 2 (41-18) in Game 1, which was Fargo’s first loss of the weekend.

Linstaedt, who hadn’t thrown the entire tournament, was summoned to the mound – a place he wanted to be with a state title up for grabs.

“After we lost that first game I was pretty down and mad,” said Linstaedt, who allowed one run off of seven hits and struck out three batters. “I wanted the ball. I wanted to go get the win for my team.”

Linstaedt was named the tournament’s most valuable player after finishing with a .533 batting average (8-for-15) with two doubles and a home run.

“He came out here and looked like he had all the confidence in the world, with the bounce he had in his step, and the way he was hitting his spots,” Rustad said of his 6-foot-3 right-hander. “He did such a great job and we picked up enough runs to keep the lead.”

Post 2 hosts the Central Plains Regional tournament, which is set for Thursday through Monday at Jack Williams Stadium. Fargo opens with an 8 p.m. matchup against Nebraska state champions Creighton Prep. With Post 2 hosting, West Fargo automatically earned a berth to the region tournament by getting back to the championship game. The Patriots will play the state champions of Minnesota at 5 p.m.

The state championship is Post 2’s first since 2005.

“It was a grind, but we came together as a team,” said Post 2 shortstop Jake Salentine, who was a combined 5-for-8 with an RBI and a run scored on Sunday. “We were struggling all day to get timely hits, but in the second game, we had guys step up.”

Post 2 got on the board in the second inning. Salentine led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Casey Quinlan. Salentine stole third base and scored on a wild pitch by West Fargo’s Noah Paper.

Fargo added two runs in the third inning. Lincoln Voss led off the inning with a double and later scored on a wild pitch. Seth Tollefson reached on a hit by pitch and scored on an RBI single off the bat of Jon Nygaard.

After picking up some run support, Linstaedt worked efficiently needing only 74 pitches – 54 of which he threw for strikes – to complete seven innings.

“I pretty much lived on throwing strikes,” Linstaedt said. “I just made them put the ball in play and I let my defense make some plays.”

Post 2 extended its lead to 5-0 scoring two runs in the sixth. Tollefson scored on an error and Andrew Beyer scored on a Salentine sacrifice fly. Tollefson and Beyer – Post 2’s No. 8 and 9 hitters – were a combined 6-for-7 in the second title game.

West Fargo’s Ben Bruenjes led off the seventh with a single and Luke Johnson followed with a walk to give the Patriots a serious threat. Linstaedt fell behind 3-0 to Jordan Rheault, but got him to ground into a double play. Bruenjes scored on a wild pitch, but Linstaedt escaped the inning by getting Kory Wolden to fly out.

“He attacked the strike zone,” West Fargo head coach Bill Ibach said of Linstaedt. “We started to get some hits, but you are only going to hold (off) Fargo for so long. I’m proud of our effort coming out and beating the best pitcher in the state (Casey Quinlan) in the first game. We had our shots. Fargo played really well. They did what they had to do to win the game and they deserved it.”

WF 000 000 110 – 2 9 1

F 001 202 00x – 5 14 0

Paper, Shepherd (3), Young (8) and Bruenjes. Linstaedt, Hallock (8) and Hallock, Penney (8). W–Linstaedt. L–Paper. S–Hallock.

F 000 111 000 – 3 10 1

WF 100 120 23x – 9 14 4

Quinlan, Voss (7), Both (8) and Hallock. Bonnema, Young (7) and Bruenjes. W–Bonnema. L–Quinlan. S–Young.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562