The West Fargo Babe Ruth baseball 15-year-old team has done it again. The team hosted and won the Central Plains Regional Tournament and landed itself in its third consecutive Babe Ruth World Series.
After making the esteemed series as 13 and 14-year-olds, the same group of players heads to the World Series again Aug. 21-28 in Longview, Washington, near Seattle.
West Fargo is the first North Dakota team to make three World Series at any level of youth baseball.
"There have only been nine appearances in the history of the state, and now we have three of them. I think that kind of puts it into perspective," said coach Jeff Young of his players that have won five of their last six state title tournaments at various levels.
West Fargo went 5-1 at the regional to make this year's World Series, losing to Minnetonka 5-2 in matchup between undefeated teams on Saturday, which later set up two state title games against Minnetonka that West Fargo would have to win.
It was virtually no contest, as the host team mowed through Minnetonka, 12-0 and 13-0, last Sunday and Monday, respectively, earning the trip to the west coast. Tanner Dahl pitched four innings of shutout baseball with four strikeouts for West Fargo and was relieved in the fifth and final inning by Austin Horsager, who closed the door.
Andy Young hit a double and scored three runs for West Fargo, while Horsager and Chance Bitzer also scored three runs each.
Dahl fielded a final ground at third base and tossed it to Bitzer at first to end the game.
"Everyone just ran out of the dugout and there was a big dog pile," said outfielder Brendan Sluke. "Everyone was screaming and yelling. We feel fortunate to get another chance. Hard work brought us to the World Series three years in a row, so hard work pays off in the end."
West Fargo did not place in its last two World Series appearances, something the team hopes to change later this month, given the team's big tourney experience.
"It's exciting to see what we can do this time around since the last couple times we didn't do much there. We're not scared anymore," said infielder Jordan Rheault. "We were maybe a little intimidated, because it's the whole country we're playing baseball against. Now we're really going to try to put it together and win some ball games."
The team has done plenty of winning already this season, taking multiple tournament titles this year and finishing second at the Omaha (Neb.) College World Series Nike tournament. West Fargo, 34-9 in the year, beat the Team USA 15-year-olds at one point this season as well.
"We have great kids that really work hard, and they really compete well," said Jeff Young. "Our defense was absolutely spectacular (in the regional). Not only did they make some solid plays, but they made some phenomenal plays in the field."
Other players on the team include Brandan Nelson, Karson Mapes, Brock Evenson, Tucker Bucholz, Landan Uetz, Ben Huber, Sam Sandoval and Zach Steckler. Todd Rheault and Gerald Urlaub also coach the team.