Bombs away: Suda’s blast leads Grafton; WWCS also into semisZach Suda generated offense and controversy with one swing Thursday at the Class B state baseball tournament. The Grafton High School senior crushed a high fastball that was eventually ruled a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to lift the Spoilers to a 3-1 win over Hatton-Northwood in the opening round at Jack Brown Stadium.
By: By Chris Aarhus, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Zach Suda generated offense and controversy with one swing Thursday at the Class B state baseball tournament.
The Grafton High School senior crushed a high fastball that was eventually ruled a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to lift the Spoilers to a 3-1 win over Hatton-Northwood in the opening round at Jack Brown Stadium.
Grafton (17-9) squares off against Washburn-Wilton-Center-Stanton in today’s 4:30 p.m. semifinal. Hatton-Northwood (15-3) meets Bottineau in consolation action at 11:30 a.m.
After hitting an obstruction, the ball bounced back into center field. In question is what obstruction the ball hit. Hatton-Northwood coach Chad Omdahl said it hit toward the top of the fence, while the officials ruled it a home run after a short conference because they saw it strike a light pole, ricochet down onto the fence and bounce into center.
“Just by the angle, there’s no way it came off the pole,” Omdahl said.
Still, Omdahl acknowledged what would have happened had he gotten his way. Suda would have been rewarded with an RBI triple, and Joe Demers’ single would have brought him in anyway.
“It didn’t make a difference,” Omdahl said. “If we could have had better quality at-bats with runners in (scoring) position, that would have made a difference.”
Suda was also instrumental in the fourth, scoring the game’s first run when he singled and was eventually brought home on a Thomas Houdek suicide squeeze. His next at-bat was the home run an inning later.
“I saw (the home run) go off the bat and I knew it was in the gap,” said Suda, who led Grafton with two hits. “I was trying to wheel, and when I got to third base, they said I had a home run.”
HN got a run in the top half of the fifth as Kyle Pederson scored on a Brock Sherva single, but the two-run shot in the bottom half was integral in a game in which offense was hard to come by thanks to strong starting pitching. Pederson had a team-high two hits.
Grafton’s Jaime Villarreal (6-3) didn’t allow an earned run, giving up just four hits. He struck out 11 and didn’t walk a batter, needing just 86 pitches for the complete game.
“He was typical Jaime,” Grafton coach Chad Kliniske said. “One of the pitches you don’t see in Class B is the changeup. And Jaime has probably the best changeup in North Dakota. That’s a huge advantage.”
HN’s Trenton Olson (4-1) wasn’t shabby, either, giving up three earned runs on four hits in six innings of work. He walked three, struck out seven and threw 73 pitches.
“He kept us in the game,” Omdahl said. “We were hitting the ball; we couldn’t get that one extra hit.”
Despite the win, Kliniske said he intends on shuffling the lineup for today’s contest. Demers will start on the hill.
“There might be some lineup shake-up,” he said. “There are some spots I’m a little upset with.”
WWCS 4, Bottineau 3
The seventh inning dealt Washburn-Wilton-Center-Stanton a win and Bottineau more heartbreak.
Trailing 1-0 after six, the Cardinals scored four runs in the seventh, and Bottineau lost in the opening round for the third year in a row.
WWCS (22-3) plays Grafton in today’s 4:30 p.m. semifinal, while the Braves (18-3) drop into the consolation bracket and meet Hatton-Northwood at 11:30 a.m.
“This one really hurts,” Bottineau coach Nate Simpson said. “We had the game in hand and we didn’t execute.”
WWCS struggled the first six innings against Bottineau senior pitcher Mark LaCroix, who had thrown just 66 pitches and faced the minimum 18 batters. LaCroix gave up two earned on five hits in the complete-game effort. He struck out 11 and didn’t walk a batter.
LaCroix even scored the game’s only run until the seventh, reaching on error in the fourth inning.
“This loss is not on Mark,” Simpson said. “He carried us through that game.”
But WWCS put a rally together and forced LaCroix to throw 36 pitches in a seventh inning that saw the Cardinals get four of their five total hits.
“We knew we had to get it done,” Washburn senior pitcher Kirk Sailer said. “(Bottineau) was playing some really good baseball and it took some dropped balls. We knew we had to get the bats going.”
WWCS leadoff Brett Schreiner reached when Bottineau shortstop Justin McCloud couldn’t convert an over-the-shoulder catch in shallow center field. More tough luck for McCloud came in the form of Zach Hruby, who followed Schreiner with a slow roller in the infield that McCloud was able to pick up, though the off-balance throw was in the dirt. Both plays were scored as singles.
The plays were certainly enough to keep WWCS coach Kip Erickson pacing along the third-base line.
“I’m always nervous, I’m a wreck,” Erickson said. “But you’ve got to trust your players. You’ve got to believe, and that’s what we did.”
Schreiner scored the game-tying run on a passed ball, and Hruby the go-ahead run when Jesse Henke reached on error. Evan Eberle and Connor Thompson also had singles in the inning.
Bottineau responded with two runs in the bottom half, stranding the tying runner on third base and the winning run on second base. Sailer got Brock Hiltner to fly out to center field to end the game.
Like LaCroix (7-1), Sailer (6-0) was dominant on the mound. He went all seven innings, allowing four hits on two earned runs, walking three and striking out seven.
“He’s a battler,” Erickson said. “His curveball didn’t work too good, but his fastball kept (Bottineau) off-guard.”
For a team having won its region the past three years, the five seniors in Bottineau’s lineup won’t get to experience the state semifinals.
“It’s on me as a coach for not getting them mentally prepared for the seventh,” Simpson said. “And it’s on us as a team for not executing.”
Grafton 3, Hatton-Northwood 1
HN 000 010 0 — 1 4 1
G 000 120 x — 3 4 4
Trenton Olson and Brock Sherva. Jaime Villarreal and Alex martinson.
W—Villarreal (6-3); L—Olson (4-1).
HR—G, Zach Suda.
Highlights: HN, Olson 6 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 H, 3 walks, 7 Ks, Kyle Pederson 2-3. G, Villarreal 7 IP, R, 0 ER, 0 walks, 11 Ks, Suda 2-3, 2 R, 2 RBIs.
Washburn-Wilton-Center-Stanton 4, Bottineau 3
WWCS 000 000 4 — 4 5 4
Bott. 000 100 2 — 3 4 2
Kirk Sailer and Danny Henke; Mark LaCroix and Andrew Hill.
W—Sailer (6-0); L—LaCroix (7-1).
Highlights: WWCS, Sailer 7 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 H, 3 walks, 7 Ks, Brett Schreiner 2-3, R, Connor Thompson 1-3, R, RBI. B, LaCroix 7 IP, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 walks, 11 Ks, Andrew Hill 1-3, 2B, R, walk, Ging Martin 1-3, RBI, walk.
Sun sports writer Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org