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Baseball places second at state tournament

West Fargo's Tanner Dahl winds up against Bismarck Century in the opening round of the State Tournament on Thursday in Jamestown. The Packers won 5-1 in 10 innings. John Steiner, Jamestown Sun

For nearly the entire season, West Fargo played second fiddle to the Eastern Dakota Conference-leading Fargo South.

And when the two teams met in a battle royale during the title game of the Class A State Tournament last Saturday in Jamestown, the Bruins made sure it stayed that way.

Sparked by David Ernst's no hitter, South (35-2) scored three times to defeat the Packers (24-7) and hoist the championship crown. For his efforts, Ernst earned All-Tournament and All-State honors and was named Senior Athlete of the Year.

"We knew they were going to throw Ernst, and he was on top of his game. He just kind of got better and better as the game went on," West Fargo coach Brett Peterson said.

While Ernst kept the Packers at bay, Eric Moe struck on offense, going 2-for-3 with two runs batted in.

But West Fargo didn't simply roll over and let South walk away with the title.

"We had guys on first and second in the fifth inning, and that was really the only time we were a threat," Peterson said.

The Packers may have failed to bring a state championship home, but they still played a solid tournament against North Dakota's top talent.

In the opener, senior pitcher Tanner Dahl held Bismarck Century at bay in a game that went 10 innings and eventually resulted in West Fargo's 5-1 win.

"Tanner threw a gem," Peterson said. "He was every bit as good Thursday as Ernst was against us Saturday."

Dahl was West Fargo's top pitcher all season, and finished the regular season with 59 strikeouts and a 0.38 ERA in 36 2/3 innings pitched. He had a flawless 5-0 record with two saves, and was honored with both All-Tournament and All-State Team distinctions.

But Dahl wasn't West Fargo's only pitching punch.

"Our pitchers did a good job, and did everything we asked of them," Peterson said.

Andy Young picked up the win Friday over Wahpeton.

"He threw really well," Peterson said.

The Packers scored twice in the fifth inning and hit in three runs in the sixth before giving up two to the Huskies in the bottom of the inning. Young finished the regular season with a 2-1 record and a save, while striking out 28 batters in 18 1/3 innings. He finished with a 0.38 ERA, and was named All-Tournament and All-State.

West Fargo's other All-Tournament selection was given to Landon Uetz. The junior had a banner postseason, which included four hits in the state tournament opener against Century. As the leadoff hitter, Uetz saw the plate on 92 occasions, and in that time, racked up 24 runs on 35 hits, as well as 25 RBIs and two home runs for a .380 batting average.

And while several individual Packers may have shone brightly during the season, Peterson is quick to point out that it was a team effort that saw West Fargo finish with arguably one of its best seasons to date.

"We just got contributions from everyone, and that's ultimately what it takes to get where we did," he said. And that includes defense. "Whether it was to maintain a lead or prevent one from growing, our defense was solid," he said.

Even compared with last season, which saw West Fargo also hit the postseason strong, Peterson thinks this year's team gets the edge.

"There's a lot of similarities between this year's and last year's team, but the big difference with this year is that we were playing our best baseball going into the postseason. We peaked at the right time." he said. "Last year, we were strong, but peaked early and kind of went downhill toward the end."

Peterson also has reason to look forward to next year, because many of West Fargo's top players we return.

"There's a lot of high school baseball players who never play in that game," he said, of the title matchup. "But we have a lot of guys that gave us significant innings that are coming back next year.

"There's no doubt we'll lose key seniors, like every year, but I like what I see."

Even though the prep season may wind to a close, another chapter is already up and running as the American Legion season kicks off. Peterson said many Packers will be playing as Patriots this summer under the guide of coach Bill Ibach.

West Fargo's Legion season kicked off Tuesday with a doubleheader in Jamestown. The Patriots also host Fargo on Thursday for a 5:30 p.m. doubleheader, then head west for doubleheaders at 5:30 p.m. at Mandan on Saturday, and at Bismarck on Sunday beginning at 1 p.m.