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Patriots head to regional tournament

The warm-ups are over. Now, the real test begins.

In the minds of most West Fargo Patriot players, and in the mind of the squad's coach, the East Region Tournament is the true litmus test for the summer baseball season. And it kicks off this week in Wahpeton.

After 49 games, 20 of them wins, and nearly a .500 record in league play, the Patriots will try to get back to the State A Legion Tournament. And it would be sweet vindication for a team that has tasted disappointment after disappointment, both in the spring and in the summer.

"We've been close on a lot of different occasions, and we've just kind of been jinxed," Brett Peterson, head coach of the squad, said. "We've found ways to lose, we've downright lost, and we've had chances. We've just never gotten over that hump."

For this team, in particular, advancing would be sweet. They'll head in as the No. 5 seed in the six-team East Region, which will spell a first-round matchup with Wahpeton. That's target No. 1.

But in the back of their minds, these young men remember what happened against Fargo South just two and half months ago, when the team had a chance to move into the East Region semis, but a base-running blunder gave the Bruins a victory.

"That kind of stuck with us for a long time. Now we have a chance to redeem that," Peterson said.

Things weren't all that promising last week, as the Pats lost six of seven in their final stretch. In three of those games, West Fargo scored two runs or less. Two losses were to Fargo, the top team in the East. West Fargo was also swept by Grand Forks, the No. 2 team in the region.

But the Pats have done well enough to be in the mix. They've dominated Valley City, a young squad that has lost all 41 games it has played this season. And they've done well against Jamestown, a team that has the better conference record over the West Fargo club.

With four spots heading to the State Tourney, the Pats have to like their chances.

"It would be pretty disappointing (not to go)," Peterson said. "We feel we have a good enough team to get there and to maybe do something once we're there."

West Fargo could be built better for this format than that of the regular season. After all, it has seasoned itself with five tournaments throughout the course of the regular season, and has placed third in two of those tourneys. Over the last two weeks, they've competed in a pair of tournaments, at Detroit Lakes and in Fargo. Both provided good, last-minute tests.

"We're kind of built for it, if our pitching comes around," Peterson said of tournament play. "We have a lot of arms. We have several guys that can rotate in and out of the field. We're solid at the plate. We just have to keep our defense strong, and a lot of that is staying in the game mentally. If we can do that, we should be all right."

West Fargo will start the East Region tourney on Thursday evening in Wahpeton. Game time is 8 p.m.