Wolves are State Class B Baseball Champions
By Neal A. Shipman
No one was probably more surprised than Justin Johnsrud, Wolves’ head baseball coach, when Watford City was tapped as the No. 1 seed going into the Class B State Baseball Tournament. But he knew if his team played to their potential, they had a very good chance of winning State.
And that is just what the Watford City Wolves did this past weekend as the Wolves battled through rain storms and three tough teams to win their first-ever State baseball crown.
Powered behind strong pitching and rock solid hitting, the Wolves rolled over Midkota, 4-1, in opening round action, before knocking off Velva, 11-4, to advance to the title game against Hazen. And then, in the championship game, the Wolves again relied on their hot bats to down Hazen, 9-4, to win the state crown.
“I was extremely proud of how all our kids played,” stated Johnsrud. “There were a lot of distractions - weather cancellations, teammate injuries, errors and crowd noise - during our three games. But we battled through all of it.”
Johnsrud credits the team’s mental toughness for helping them through the tournament.
“Our kids showed a lot of composure taking it one game at a time, one pitch at a time,” stated Johnsrud. “We talked about not trying to do too much and to just do what we had done throughout the season. And it worked out pretty well.”
During the tournament, the Wolves outscored their opponents, 25-9, and out-hit them, 40-17, to cap off a 25-1 season.
The Wolves had three players, Andrew Sampsel, Quayde Shores and Keegan Thompson named to the All-State Team, while Sampsel was named the 2014 Senior Athlete of the Year.
State Class B Baseball Tournament Championship
Watford City 9, Hazen 4
It was definitely Watford City’s day in the sun on Saturday as the Wolves claimed their first-ever State Baseball title at the Jack Brown Stadium in Jamestown.
The Wolves would get on the scoreboard first as they held the Bison scoreless in the top of the first inning, and then scored two runs as Brandon Allex crossed the plate on a David Kline single. Kline, who stole second base, would then cross the plate on an Andrew Sampsel double to put the Wolves up, 2-0.
Hazen would score one run in the top of the second inning. But the Wolves would answer back with another pair of runs as Trent Grimes would hit a two-run single.
After two scoreless innings, the Bison would tie the game, 4-4, as they scored three runs to open the fifth inning.
But Watford City would answer back with a five-run scoring barrage in the bottom of the inning to seal the win.
Keegan Thompson began the scoring drive as he belted a long double to center field which allowed Mitchell Liebel to score the go-ahead run. Quayde Shores then drove in Dustin Kleppen, and David Kline followed with a double that scored two more runs. Trent Grimes capped off the huge inning as he ripped a single to score Watford City’s winning run.
“Our bats stayed hot in the championship game,” stated Johnsrud. “After Hazen came back to tie the game in the fifth inning at 4-4, we scored five runs in the bottom of the inning to take command of the game.”
Dakota Neether earned the win on the mound for the Wolves, pitching the first five innings, while Andrew Sampsel came in to throw two shut-out innings to preserve the win.
“Dakota made his third appearance at State, and his second of the day, during the championship game,” stated Johnsrud. “I thought he would be a good matchup for Hazen with his mix of off-speed pitches. While he did not have his best stuff, he really ground it out for five innings. Coach Spacher did an excellent job of calling pitches to keep Hazen’s batters off balance.”
At the plate, Quayde Shores was two for four with one RBI, Brandon Allex was one for four with three runs scored, David Kline was three for three with a double and three RBIs, Trent Grimes was two for four with two RBIs, Andrew Sampsel was one for three with a double and one RBI, Keegan Thompson was two for three with a double, one RBI and one run scored, and Dustin Kleppen was one for four with one run scored.
R H E
Hazen 0 1 0 0 3 0 0 4 5 4
Watford City 2 2 0 0 5 0 x 9 12 4
State Class B Baseball Tournament Semifinal
Watford City 11, Velva 4
Getting to the semifinal game of the State Class B Baseball Tournament wasn’t all that hard for Watford City as the Wolves downed Midkota, 4-1, on Thursday. But getting the semifinal game played on Friday proved to be impossible as heavy rains forced the game’s cancellation.
“After four trips to the field on Friday, only to see the tarp rolled out over the infield three times and play suspended, we had to wait until Saturday morning to continue our run at a State title,” stated Johnsrud. “And it would be a rematch against Velva, who had beat us by one run in the ninth inning of Game 1 in the 2011 State Tournament.”
And when Velva would score three runs to open the top of the first inning, it looked like the Aggies would once again be the spoiler of the Wolves’ chance of a State title. But, as Watford City has done all season long, they let their bats do the talking for them.
The Wolves would see four runners, David Kline, Trent Grimes, Andrew Sampsel and Mitchell Liebel, cross the plate during their time at bat in the bottom of the first inning to set the stage for an 11-4 win over Velva.
Watford City would hold Velva scoreless for the next five innings, while tacking on two runs in the second inning and five more in the third to complete the win.
“Velva struck first with three runs in the top of the first, while Brandon Allex struggled to find his groove on the mound,” stated Johnsrud. “But, our players bounced back after a rocky start to the game scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Our bats really came alive against Velva with seven starters ending the game with multiple hits.”
Allex, who was the only Watford City player that was a member of the 2011 team, earned the win on the mound for the Wolves as he struck out three batters, while giving up three runs on seven hits in five innings of work. Dakota Neether, who came in for relief, struck out two batters while giving up one hit and one run in the final two innings.
At the plate, Quayde Shores was four for four with a double and two RBIs, Brandon Allex was two for four with one RBI, David Kline was four for four with one RBI, Trent Grimes was four for four with four RBIs, Andrew Sampsel was two for four, Mitchell Liebel was two for four with one RBI, Dakota Neether was one for two with one RBI, and Keegan Thompson was two for three with two RBIs.
R H E
Velva 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 8 -
Watford City 4 2 5 0 0 0 x 11 21 -
State Class B Baseball Tournament Opening Game
Watford City 4, Midkota 1
Watford City may have got off to a slow start against Midkota in Thursday’s opening round action of the State Class B Baseball Tournament in Jamestown. But it’s not how you start, but how you finish the game that counts.
And the Wolves scored the runs that they needed to defeat Midkota, 4-1, to advance to the semifinals.
“It took a while for our bats to get going,” stated Johnsrud. “I think we were more anxious than nervous and we were trying to do too much at the plate.”
With neither team scoring in the first four innings of play, it looked like it could be anyone’s game, before Midkota would take the early, 1-0, lead at the top of the fifth inning.
But Watford City answered back with four runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth to take the win.
Brandon Allex led off the bottom of the fifth with a single, followed by a David Kline single, a Trent Grimes double, and a single by Andrew Sampsel. And those four hits in a row set the Wolves’ offense in motion as Dakota Neether, Keegan Thompson and Quayde Shores would also single in the inning.
“I think Midkota scoring the first run of the game made us shift our focus and approach at the plate,” stated Johnsrud. “We had runners in scoring position each of the first two innings, but we were unable to come up with a timely hit.”
Andrew Sampsel earned the win on the mound for Watford City as he struck out seven batters and gave up three walks and four hits. Dakota Neether picked up the save as he came in to pitch the top of the seventh.
At the plate, Quayde Shores was two for four with one RBI, Brandon Allex was two for four, David Kline was one for four with one RBI, Trent Grimes was one for three, Andrew Sampsel was one for three with one RBI, Dakota Neether was one for three, Keegan Thompson was three for three, and Dustin Kleppen was one for three with one RBI.
R H E
Midkota 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 4 -
Watford City 0 0 0 0 4 0 x 4 12 -