Scoreless through three innings, Idaho Falls, Idaho Post 56’s offense woke up for multiple runs in each of the remaining innings on its way to a 7-3 victory over Fargo, N.D., Post 2.
Pitchers were the story early with Idaho Falls’s Caden Christensen and Fargo’s Blake Anderson dealing early.
The first real threat of the game came in the bottom of the third when Idaho Falls put two runners on twice with the heart of its lineup coming up. Fargo catcher Chandler Ibach gunned down a runner trying to steal third and Christensen induced a groundout to get out of trouble.
That left the scoreless into the fourth, when Fargo broke through.
After each of the first nine Post 2 batters made outs, the top of the lineup rallied to get a run across the second time through the lineup. Zach Kluvers got the team's first hit of the game with a one-out liner to center and went to third on a Cole Hage double. Brayden Koenig did his job and hit a sacrifice fly to right to bring home Kluvers and give Fargo the lead.
Idaho Falls responded in the bottom of the frame as Andrew Gregersen walked and a Jaxon Sorenson single caused trouble for the North Dakota defense, allowing Gregersen to come around to score. After a walk, Sorenson was able to come home on a single by Nick Layland.
“We hit the ball hard the first three innings, we just couldn’t find any holes,” Sorenson said “We tried to work counts and get a few free bases and got a few big hits and we needed them.”
Anderson's high pitch count forced an early removal despite a good start. He finished with a line of 4.0 innings, five hits, two earned runs and five strikeouts but racked up a high pitch count including four walks.
In his place, Austin Manuel came on in relief and was greeted rudely by the Northwest champions. Tavyn Lords worked a walk and regional tournament MVP Randon Hostert moved him to second with a single on an 0-2 count. Gregersen intended to move the two runners along, but his perfect bunt caused a wild throw to double the lead. Jaxon Sorenson walked to load the bases and a pair of sacrifice flies from Alex Cortez and Nick Layland made the lead 5-1.
With a four-run lead, Idaho Falls chose to remove Christensen after 5.1 innings at 59 pitches, saving him for Sunday’s game per PitchSmart mandatory rest guidelines. If he had pitched 61 or more pitches he would be required to have three days of rest and be ineligible to pitch for the remainder of the pool play games this weekend. He finished with just one run allowed on three hits through 5.1 innings.
Jace Hanson, on in relief, allowed one runner in the rest of the sixth inning but got a diving stop from Cortez at shortstop and a strikeout to end the frame.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Hostert fell behind in the count 0-2 once again but battled, fouling off three pitches before padding the lead with a two-run home run to left field, bringing home Lords who was hit by a pitch.
“All game they worked the curveball so I sat on that and adjusted to fastballs and just tried to foul them off and when I got the curveball I got a couple of hits,” Hostert said.
Fargo didn’t go quietly in the seventh, however, loading the bases with one out without a hit and then getting a two-run single to pinch hitter Jonas Sanders on an 0-2 count.
Another walk brought the tying run to the plate requiring Sorenson to come in and induce a double play to end the game.
“I just came and tried to get the ball over the plate and throw strikes and let my defense work behind me,” Sorenson said.
Both teams are off Friday but return for games Saturday and Sunday. Idaho faces Massachusetts on Saturday and North Carolina Sunday while North Dakota has the same opponents on the inverse days. All games will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
With a day off, Hostert said he would continue to enjoy the experience, saying, “It’s awesome, they do a great job here in Shelby and put on a great show for the players, coaches and families. It’s a great event to be a part of.”