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Close call: After first-round upset, Packer baseball earns state berth

From the score, it would seem Fargo Davies got the jump on West Fargo during last Thursday's opening round of the East Region baseball tournament in Wahpeton.

But to Packers coach Bret Peterson, it was a case of the big hit that never happened.

"We left guys on base in six of the seven innings," he said. "We just couldn't get that clutch hit."

In the end, the No. 2 Packers fell to No. 7 Eagles 6-3. It was an upset for sure, but regular-season runner up West Fargo was far from out.

After poor weather forced Friday's games to be canceled, the Packers won both their matchups Saturday to earn the No. 4 spot from the EDC at this week's State Tournament, which runs Thursday through Saturday in Jamestown.

The remaining East teams include No. 1 Fargo South, No. 2 Wahpeton and No. 3 Davies. They will face off against the West's No. 1 Bismarck Century, No. 2 Bismarck St. Mary's, No. 3 Minot and No. 4 Williston.

Whereas West Fargo couldn't seem to get that scoring drive in their opener, their final two games were complete opposites, Peterson said.

Like Thursday's game, in which the Packers scored early only to see Davies chip away to win, West Fargo once again struck while the iron was hot. But this time, they were able to capitalize on good base position with clutch swats. The result was a 7-1 victory over Grand Forks Red River in Game 6, and a 3-1 win over Shanley for the state qualifier.

"Red River also was upset in the first round to Wahpeton," Peterson said. "But we got some key hits with guys on base. And Tanner (Dahl) was lights out. He had 10 strikeout and gave up one run."

While West Fargo's win over the Roughriders was a tad lopsided, it was a different story versus the Deacons. Some of that was thanks to their solid pitching.

"They threw (Trey) Larson, who kept us in check," Peterson said. "We faced him before, and he was good again, but we scored a couple early; one in the second and one in the fourth."

Besides the offense clicking, the Packers also had solid help on the mound. Karson Mapes started the game, and got to work early.

"He was nine up and nine down in the first three innings," Peterson said. "And we knew we had Tanner in the wings."

Even though West Fargo had just used Dahl against Red River, Peterson said he's one of the few guys he's ever seen who West Fargo could put in a situation like that. And sure enough, they did, as Dahl entered in the top of the fifth after Mapes gave up a double with one out.

"He got guys on second and third and struck out the next two guys. Dahl got us out of the fifth and sixth," Peterson said.

Then enter Andy Young. The junior smoked a leadoff home run that gave West Fargo the edge.

"It was an absolute blast," Peterson said of the dinger.

The Deacons managed to get a run on a couple of hits, "to make it interesting," Peterson said, but the damage was done and West Fargo was going to state.

"All-in-all, Saturday was probably one of our best days of baseball of the year," he said.

The Packers will be facing the West's No. 1 Bismarck Century in Thursday's opening round. Peterson said he was happy with how his team played at the East Region tournament, and won't be changing much this go-around.

"We're going to approach this week like last week," he said. "Tanner will get the ball Game 1, and we'll go with Andy and Karson as our other starters.

"And as long as we keep swinging the bat like we have, and the defense stays solid, we should be in good shape."