West Fargo looks to carry momentum from legion state title to regional tournament
After losing to Minot on July 30, West Fargo was on the brink of elimination in the North Dakota Class AA American Legion state baseball tournament.
The Patriots got their payback and defeated Minot 8-5 on August 1 to capture the state title. With the win, the Patriots advanced to the Central Plains regional tournament, which runs from Wednesday, August 8, through August 12 at Dakota Community Bank and Trust Ballpark in Dickinson, N.D. The Patriots begin play at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
West Fargo head coach Jordan Rheault said it was a little disappointing to take an early loss, but knew his team had a lot of fight left and wasn't ready to be done.
"I don't think there was any doubt (within the team)," Rheault said. "The kids really believed in their ability and process throughout the year, and that the outcome will take care of itself."
Rheault, who is in his first season as West Fargo's head coach, is taking the Patriots to the regional tournament for the first time since 2013.
He said he has a dual-mandate for West Fargo: progressing the team while making sure players who play beyond high school are college-ready.
Drake Flesche brought some college experience back to the Patriots. He is coming off his freshman year at Bismarck State College where he played in 23 games and had a .283 batting average.
Flesche has provided a spark for the Patriots both on the mound and at the plate in the postseason and was named the state tournament MVP.
"Throughout the state tournament he showed up big time for us in the right spots," Rheault said.
Flesche and Rheault have been in the same system for several years. Before becoming the head coach, Rheault was an assistant coach on the team for four years.
"I've played for him since I was a freshman and came through the ranks with him," Flesche said. "He's improving as we improve."
A big asset Flesche brings to the table is his ability to set an example for the team through his veteran leadership, according to Rheault.
"He's really stepped into a new leadership role," Rheault said. "He's been a really strong leader for us this year and the young guys look up to him in that regard."
Flesche and the Patriots will look to keep their momentum going as they will be facing the region's toughest competition. Teams from North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska will be competing in the regional.
"Everyone is there for a reason. Everyone is well prepared and a good team," Rheault said. "You gotta play your best ball at the best time."
The winner of the Central Plains regional tournament earns a trip to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C.
Rhealt said West Fargo making it to the World Series to compete for a national title would be a major stride for the Patriots.
"It would mean a lot because we've never sent a team down there," Rheault said. "It would be a big thing for the program, a big thing for the young guys coming through. This would be a huge step team-wise."