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Baseball second in state tournament

West Fargo’s Josh Birrenkott hesitates while rounding the bases in Friday’s state semifinal game against Dickinson. The Packers won that game 3-0. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service1 / 2
Packers shortstop Ben Huber narrowly misses the tag at second base in Saturday’s championship game against Fargo Shanley. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service2 / 2

The Packers baseball came so close to defending their 2012 state championship, but fell short in a 3-2 loss to Fargo Shanley on Saturday in Jamestown.

"We were one or two hits away from a different outcome," Packers head coach Brett Peterson said. "Sometimes, it just doesn't go your way."

The team played exceptionally well leading up to Saturday's title game. They overwhelmed the Jamestown Bluejays 5-0 in Thursday's quarterfinal game, then shut out the Dickinson Midgets 3-0 in Friday's semifinal game.

The Pack had strong pitching throughout the tournament. Senior ace Camran Bonnema threw a 10-strikeout no-hitter against Jamestown on Thursday. Senior Kory Wolden followed that performance with a two-hit, eight-strikeout victory on Friday.

"We pitched the ball unbelievably all weekend," Peterson said. "Camran was outstanding in his no-hitter, and Kory wasn't very far behind. We had three guys pitch on Saturday (Adam Schroeder, Noah Paper and Bonnema), and they did well too."

Despite strong outings on the mound, the Packers could not replicate that success in the batter's box.

"We couldn't quite get the bats going Saturday," Peterson said. "We weren't bad by any means, but we hit a lot of 'at 'em' balls and a few warning-track pop ups. All in all, we played really well this weekend. We really left it all on the field, and I don't think anyone regrets the way they played."

After losing 10 seniors from last year's championship team, Peterson admits that this year's outcome would have surprised him a bit if he would have been told in March that this team would return to the state championship game.

"At the beginning of season, we didn't think we would take a big step back," Peterson said. "I thought getting back to the championship might be a bit of a stretch after all the gym time, but the guys hit the ground running. The new guys stepped in and worked hard. When I saw that, I thought we had a chance."

For the second year in a row, the Packers will lose 10 players this offseason, but Peterson believes this year's seniors rubbed off on the underclassmen in a way that could lead them to success next season.

"The younger guys got some really good experience this year, and they know they will have to take over next year," Peterson said. "This season was fun because we had great leadership, even from the role players. It was all about the team, and the younger guys know that it's not just about the nine individual guys on the field. Despite the fact that we lose some really great players, the leadership qualities of this team should probably carry over, and we should be competitive again."