PACK EARNS EDC CROWN
Last year, Fargo Davies knocked West Fargo from conference title contention after a first-round upset.
This year, the Packers made sure not to make the same mistake twice, and it paid off in a big way.
West Fargo prevailed as the East Region's top team after outright winning last weekend's conference tournament in Fargo.
After a very tight race at the top of the standings, the Packers entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed with a 14-4 conference record and 27-5 overall.
They made quick work of their first two opponent, defeating Grand Forks Central 9-3 on Thursday, and Wahpeton 12-4 on Friday.
This set up a title matchup between top-ranked West Fargo and No. 6 Fargo Shanley, which had upset No. 3 Fargo North and No. 2 Grand Forks Red River en route to Saturday's game.
The Deacons proved the wins weren't flukes, either, after tying the Packers 2-2 in the top of the seventh to force extra innings.
But it would take just one, as Tucker Bucholz drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Packers a 3-2 victory and the East Region crown. This was after Andy Young hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the third inning, which gave the Packers a 2-1 lead for a few innings before Shanley tied things in the seventh.
For their efforts, five Packers earned All-Conference honors, including seniors Bucholz, Young, Zach Steckler and Brock Evenson, and junior Kory Wolden.
Young also was named Eastern Dakota Conference Senior Player of the Year, a testament to West Fargo's system: in 2010, Matt Strahm also was named North Dakota Senior Athlete of the Year.
As for Young, he's definitely been going out with a bang. In more than 34 innings on the mound during the regular season, the right-hander had a gleaming 4-0 record and an earned runs average of just 1.22 - fifth best in the EDC. He also is seventh in strikeouts with 34, which he increased to 40 after pitching for West Fargo during Friday's win, his fifth of the season, over the Huskies.
Young has proven his versatility with offensive prowess, too. During the season, he was Top 10 in the EDC in batting average (.349), hits (22), runs (19), doubles (9), home runs (2), and runs batted in (19).
But Young wasn't alone at racking up season highs. Bucholz ranked second in the EDC with a .449 batting average, while Evenson and Wolden cracked the Top 10 with BA's of .415 and .348, respectively.
Bucholz, Young and Evenson tied for fourth in the conference with 22 hits apiece.
Wolden also was second in three categories: hits (23), runs (20), and stolen bases (10), and pitched to a respectable 1.83 ERA.
Steckler, who boasted an ERA of 1.89, tied Young for wins during the regular season with four, but topped his teammate in strikeouts with 38.
Senior Landon Uetz had success of his own, finishing in the Top 10 in runs (15) and triples (2), even after getting walked 17 times, second highest in the conference.
Even though these represent just a few of the Packers impressive players, rest assured more remain to represent a sound threat at this weekend's state tournament.
As the East's top seed, the Packers face West No. 4 Bismarck St. Mary's at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, during the first round of the state tournament at Mandan Memorial Ballpark.
The game could be a tight contest. During their only meeting of the year, a doubleheader May 19 in West Fargo, the Packers edged the Saints 2-0 in the opener before rolling 8-3 in the nightcap.