Dubuque County upends West Fargo to advance to American Legion World Series
DICKINSON, N.D.—For all five days of the Central Plains Regional tournament, Dubuque County (Iowa) Post 137 head coach Rob Hoerner planted himself at the front of his dugout, seated on a bucket.
But as his team closed in on a championship, the skipper couldn't contain himself.
As pitcher Sam Goodman faced West Fargo shortstop Alex Urlaub with two outs in the the seventh inning, Hoerner began rocking back and forth with his head facing the turf. Later, he rose from his seat, walked into the dugout and let out a howl before taking a seat again.
Goodman struck out Urlaub as the Post 137 players scurried onto the field. Dubuque County captured its first regional crown in program history, following a 3-2 victory over the Patriots in American Legion baseball on Sunday, Aug. 12, at the Dakota Community Bank & Trust Ballpark.
Dubuque County defeated the Patriots twice Sunday to earn the region championship. It is the first time since 1986 that Iowa will be represented in the American Legion World Series.
Hoerner was showered with a bucket of ice water, thanks to a pair of his players.
"It was shocking. Being that it's about 107-108 degrees out here on this turf and you get that cold water, I didn't know what was going to happen to me for a couple of seconds," Hoerner said. "But I'll take that any day if this is the outcome, it was a great thing. In the back of my mind, I knew it was coming sooner or later, I just didn't know when, so they caught me a little off guard."
In order to play in the second championship game, Dubuque County defeated West Fargo 11-0 in five innings earlier in the day. Goodman, who started the that game, earned two victories on the day and was named the tournament's most valuable player.
West Fargo, making its second appearance in the regional, came away with its best finish. The Patriots were trying to become the first North Dakota team to make the World Series since Fargo Post 2 in 1992.
"One of our big things is never having any 'what if' moments and we certainly didn't," said West Fargo head coach Jordan Rheault said. "Our kids poured their hearts out and I couldn't be prouder of the 17 athletes that we have on the team. I couldn't be prouder of each one, I love all of them. They've done great things for this program, whether they are done or have more years, I'm happy for all of them."
With a trip to Shelby N.C., at stake, the teams were deadlocked at 2-2 entering the bottom of the sixth inning and Dubuque County's top of the order due up.
West Fargo starting pitcher Ryan Bourassa started the frame on the mound, but faced his last batter of the game in the name of shortstop Sam Link, who struck a blistering line drive single for his third hit of the championship game. Jake Faircloth, who started the game at third base, took over on the mound in relief.
Link was pushed to second base after a T.J. Deardorff sacrifice bunt. After an intentional walk and flyout, Jackson Bennett stepped to the plate with the go-ahead run on third.
Bennett lifted a fly ball to deep left-center field, which bounced on the warning track and over the wall for an RBI ground-rule double, scoring the go-ahead run.
"Their pitchers did a really good job of keeping me off balance today. During the whole tournament, I was pretty much on the ball until today," Bennett said. "My approach was to try and get hits. It just wasn't my day, but I got a pitch I could hit and did what I could to help the team."
West Fargo scored first off of starting pitcher C.J. McDermott in the third inning when No. 9 hitter Tristen Roehrich doubled with one out. After a Faircloth groundout pushed Roehrich to third, he was driven in on a sharp RBI single by third baseman Brayden Jacobson.
Jacobson stole second before Andrew Enno grounded to short. Link got to the ball, but his long throw pulled the first baseman off of the bag. Jacobson, who kept running, slid into home safely.
Tasked with overcoming a 2-0 deficit, Dubuque County had two on with one out in the bottom of the frame, but Bourassa fanned Gannon O'Brien and induced a Dylan Gotto fly out to end the inning. Bourassa, who will play collegiate ball at Bismarck State College next season, grinded his way out of trouble as Post 137 stranded seven runners through the first three innings.
"It shows his character," Rheault said. "You can say it shows his pitching ability and obviously he has great pitching ability, he's going to college to pitch, but it shows his character to do those type of things in this type of an environment."
Dubuque County tied it in the fourth thanks to a Deardorff RBI groundout and a Lehman RBI single.
While McDermott was solid on the hill, allowing four hits and no walks, Hoerner took no chances and inserted Goodman with two outs and a runner on third in the top of the fifth. Goodman struck out Jacobson to end the threat.
Goodman had a 47-pitch limit after throwing 58 pitches in the first game. He was afforded that luxury after Dubuque County plated three runs in the first, a run in the second, four in the third and three more in the fifth. With an 8-0 lead after four, Goodman gave way to Lehmann, who finished Game 1.
"The plan was that if we could get a big enough lead, with the pitch count being low, that I could come back in Game 2," Goodman said. "So the plan was to try and get out in front, and if we could get away with the lead, they can pull me as soon as possible and save me for whatever I had left in the second game."
Dubuque County 11, West Fargo Patriots 0 (5 innings)
DC 314 03--11 8 0
WF 000 00--0 2 5
DC: Sam Goodman (4.0), Kyle Lehmann (1.0) and Joel Vaske. WF: Lance Oster (1.2), Morgan Kapaun (0.2), Brayden Jacobson (2.0), Ryan Reynolds (0.2) and Dustin Mertz. W—Goodman. L—Oster.
Dubuque County 3, West Fargo Patriots 2
WF 002 000 0--2 4 2
DC 000 201 x--3 9 0
WF: Ryan Bourassa (5.0+), Jake Faircloth (1.0) and Dustin Mertz. DC: Connor McDermott (4.2), Sam Goodman (2.1) and Joel Vaske. W—Goodman. L—Bourassa.