West Fargo Patriots advance to region championship, one win from American Legion World Series
DICKINSON, N.D.—Long after the stands had cleared and the sprinklers kicked on, Bobby Jackson knelt at home plate, head in his hands. Jackson, along with the rest of the Omaha Burke Black Bulldogs were not ready to go home, but their time had come.
A 5-3 loss to North Dakota state champion West Fargo eliminated the Nebraska state champs from the Central Plains Regional Tournament on Saturday, Aug. 11 in American Legion baseball at Dakota Community Bank & Trust Ballpark.
"They've worked so hard. I think on the year, that puts them at 66-18 for spring and summer. With 11 seniors, it's been a long time coming," Burke Black head coach Scott Hodges said. "A long bus ride home, but great kids to go on the journey with."
West Fargo is one win away from the American Legion World Series.
The Patriots remained unbeaten in the tournament and will play Dubuque County, the Iowa state champion, at noon Sunday for the championship. If West Fargo loses, there will be a second title game to determine who advances to Shelby, N.C., for the American Legion World Series.
"(We need to) still believe that we can win it and go to Shelby and just do what we've been doing. Hit the ball, playing strong (defense)," West Fargo second baseman Brayden Jacobson said.
Patriots starting pitcher Adison Krank played a large role in the team's fourth straight Central Plains victory, tossing six innings while allowing three runs on one hit. The left-hander fanned two and walked six.
West Fargo head coach Jordan Rheault said Krank's showing was the deciding factor.
"Adison, he came in and he wasn't even on our roster, to be honest, two weeks ago," Rheault said. "Now he's pitching in a moment like this to send us to the championship game. That's pretty big time for him."
The Bulldogs struck first, capitalizing on an error that allowed leadoff man Tyler Cate to reach. A sacrifice bunt from Jackson moved him to second and an RBI double from Noah Olson scored the first run of the game. Olson's two-base knock was the only Omaha hit.
"Their infield defense played really well," Hodges said of West Fargo.
West Fargo answered with two runs in the bottom of the first and three more in the third inning.
Third baseman Jake Faircloth singled in his first at-bat and was followed by Jacobson, who drew a walk. Patriots center fielder Tanner Zepeda plated them both with a single.
In the fourth, Jacobson contributed again. He hit a triple to score two more runs and then came home on a single from Andrew Enno.
Jacobson finished 2-for-3, rounding out his day with a single in the sixth.
"He did a really good job of being simple and up the middle and using his strength up the middle," Rheault said. "He's using some of the pitcher's power and the velocity that he was providing. He was calm in the batter's box today."
Jacobson, one of the younger members on the West Fargo squad, was seeing pitches well from both Bulldogs starter Connor McElderry and reliever Alexander Wize.
"He was pounding away in the first at-bats and he missed an inside one and I made him pay for it, hit a triple off of it," Jacobson said of McElderry.
A walk to open the third, followed by an errant throw to first and a sacrifice fly scored Burke Black's second run, which tied the game at 2-2.
In the final frame, the Bulldogs put the pressure on, but it wasn't enough.
Krank walked Zach Munson to start the seventh, his last action on the mound. Faircloth, who earned the save, took over. Faircloth walked the next batter, Nicholas Hall, before two flyouts pushed Munson over to third and then home.
Jacobson fielded the final out as Cate grounded out to second.
"We were always engaged and we believed that we could win this game so we have to be beaten twice in the championship," Jacobson said.
OBB 101 000 1--3 1 2
WF 200 300 x--5 7 2
Connor McElderry (3.1), Alexander Wize (2.2) and Nolan Opheim. Adison Krank (6), Jake Faircloth (1) and Dustin Mertz. W—Krank. L—McElderry. SV—Faircloth.