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Pats take second in state

Camran Bonnema pitches against Dickinson during the North Dakota Class A American Legion state tournament in West Fargo. David Samson / Forum News Service

Much like the Packers in June, the Patriots were so close to successfully defending their 2012 state title, but fell just short.

The team made it all the way to the championship game on Sunday, but fell to Fargo Post 2 and took second place in the state.

The tournament began with a decisive 4-0 victory over Dickinson, in which pitcher Camran Bonnema threw a two-hit, nine-inning shutout with seven strikeouts.

"Everything felt perfect," Bonnema said. "Everything was working for me. You have to give credit to Dickinson. We kind of shut them down in the first three innings, but they kept coming back. But we definitely got off on the right foot tonight. I think we have a lot of momentum moving forward."

Shortstop Andy Young was the team's offensive spark plug. He went 3-for-4 at the plate and hit a towering two-run shot over the left field fence in the bottom of the fifth inning.

The team's two other runs came off the bats of Ben Huber and Jordan Rheault, but the highlights came from the Pats' defense, which made several diving catches to keep Dickinson off the bases.

"We knew Bonnie was going come out and throw a great game, so our defense had to be solid," Young said. "Our defense has been carrying us all year. It was nice to see that continue."

Unlike Wednesday's handling of Dickinson, the Pats couldn't gain any traction against Fargo Post 2 on Thursday, managing only four hits and losing 8-1.

However, they bounced back in Friday's game against Wahpeton, but it took a while.

Pitcher Kory Wolden gave up four runs in the first two innings of the game, but took control of the game just in time for the Pats' offense to come screaming back with a nine-hit, 10-run fifth inning.

"Right away, I was feeling kind of tight," Wolden said. "It was a big game in state, so I had some jitters. After a few innings, I buckled down and I felt like I was able to control my pitches a little more. The team gave me a lot of confidence by picking up offensively and putting some numbers on the board. That always makes it easier. We have so many guys that can really hit the ball, and we have the potential to go far in this tournament."

The scoring didn't stop there, as the Pats managed another six runs over the next three innings.

"You just have to keep your head in the game and stay within striking distance," head coach Bill Ibach said. "That's what we preach to these guys. Four teams went home today, and we are happy to not be one of them."

The Pats followed up on Saturday at noon with an 11-8 victory in a rematch against Dickinson. In that game, Landon Uetz picked up the win on the mound.

They went on to face Bismarck on Saturday evening, and overwhelmed them 10-1.

Pitcher Chase Gooding was on the mound for all nine innings and gained control of the game after a rough first inning. He struck out seven batters while only giving up one walk.

Offensively, the team was paced by Huber, who had three RBIs, and Young, who hit a two-run homer.

Saturday's wins meant that the Pats would face Fargo Post again on Sunday, this time for the state title. Since Post 2 had yet to lose a game in the tournament, West Fargo had to beat them twice to take the championship.

The first game went as the Patriots had hoped, as they managed 14 hits in a 9-3 victory. Bonnema earned the win on the mound, with Young earning the save after pitching three scoreless innings.

However, they had trouble crossing the plate -- despite getting nine hits as a team -- in the second game, and Post 2 beat them 5-2 in the championship game.

The second place finish earned West Fargo a bid to compete in the Central Plains Regional tournament, which begins tomorrow Jack Williams Stadium in Fargo.

"I was pretty proud of how they competed," Ibach said. "Having already clinched a berth in regionals they could have mailed it in, but they came out ready to play. They beat one of the toughest pitchers around in the first game, and they played really well the second. We just couldn't get over the hump.

"This group has played at the regional level before, so I know they can do it. They have such a competitive nature, and I think they'll come out ready to go."