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David Selvig / Forum News Service, Published August 19 2013

Merchants end Elks' four-year run as ND amateur champs

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – The Jamestown Elks’ four-year run as Class 3A state amateur tournament champions ended on Sunday.

But not without a fight.

After Boya Quichocho spun a complete game shutout to force a second title tilt at Jack Brown Stadium, the Jamestown Miller Lite Merchants pulled away to win the decisive affair 8-3, earning their first 3A crown since 2008.

“You wouldn’t expect it to be easy. Not in this tournament,” said Merchants slugger Bryan Erstad. “I’m really happy for our team, for all the people that support us. You start to wonder if it’s ever going to happen again. … It feels pretty good.”

The Merchants were dominant through their first two wins, outscoring their opponents 18-1. But Quichocho and hard-throwing Luke Anderson locked horns in a pitcher’s duel in the opener with the lone run of the game scoring on a double steal in the top of the fourth when Nolan Skowronek scampered home when Anthony Fontana’s throw went through to second base.

The Merchants outhit the Elks 7-4, but Quichocho was stellar in just his third outing of the summer.

“It was kind of a matter of practicing what I preach. … Whatever it takes to get a win,” said Quichocho, who is building a sparkling amateur resume with the Elks. “I started feeling better as the game went on. The defense was good behind me and they hit a few balls hard that were at people, that always helps.”

Erstad knew they were in for a struggle.

“Well, you know when you see Mr. Boya out there in the state tournament it’s going to be tough,” he said.

For the Elks to get anything off Anderson was a feat. About a month ago the big right-hander was pitching for the St. Paul Saints of the American Association independent baseball league. He was college teammates with Merchants catcher Anthony Fontana at North Dakota State. Anderson allowed just four hits and struck out 12.

“Our pitching was really good all tournament. What’d we give up, five runs? You’ll win a lot of ballgames pitching like that,” Erstad said.

After a shaky start in the second championship game, Brandon Baumgartner gave the Merchants their fourth strong start of the weekend. The lefty went seven innings and allowed just one run, which came in the top of the first.

The Merchants, who finished with a record of 22-6, scored five times in the top of the fourth inning and never trailed again. Joey Demers delivered the key blow, a two-run double that scored Tom Houdek and Nick Salentine. Demers doubled twice in the game. Erstad had a pair of singles and the Merchants drew seven walks.

“We had a lot of guys chip in today and in the tournament,” Erstad said. “It’s a good group of guys. It’s a pretty satisfying way to end the season.”

Quichocho, meanwhile, earned a day or two off from all of his duties at Jamestown College. After firing the seven-hit gem, he caught the first six innings of Game 2 in the searing heat. He also played errorless shortstop and third base in the tournament. But more than anything was pleased with how his team played after a rocky start to the summer.

“Like I told the guys, from where we were in the middle of the season up until now, I’ll take it,” he said. “The Merchants are good. We knew it’d be tough, but we hung in there and battled right until the end.”

Game 1

Elks 000 100 000–1 4 1

Merchants 000 000 000–0 7 1

Boya Quichocho and Mike Nelson. Luke Anderson and Anthony Fontana. W–Quichocho. L–Anderson. 2B- Elks, Mike Nelson. Merchants, Joey Demers. SB–Elks, Nolan Skowronek, Todd Roth. Merchants, Jared Purdy.

Game 2

Merchants 000 503 000–8 8 2

Elks 100 000 020–3 6 2

Brandon Baumgartner, Paul Roers (8) and Fontana. Nick Smart, Kasey Gengler (7) and Quichocho, Nelson (7). W–Baumgartner. L–Smart. 2B–Merchants, Demers 2, Andy Young. Elks, Nelson. SB–Bryan Erstad 2.

David Selvig is the sports editor for the Jamestown (N.D.) Sun