MVPs, like champs, spread out
It's been rare lately where the three amateur baseball state champions come from different communities.
But this year, that's what happened. As a result, the MVPs also come from different parts of the state.
For Bryan Erstad and Aaron Stemen, MVPs are nothing new, both have won it previously. But Dalton Flaagan is a first-timer.
After playing club baseball at NDSU, Flaagan is now back home in Tolna working in the ag industry. Flaagan and a number of his high school friends and teammates made a convincing run through the Class A field.
The left-handed hitting centerfielder clubbed two home runs in helping Tolna outscore its three opponents 27-10. Flaagan finished 5-for-12 with four RBIs and five runs scored. He also doubled and was the only player with multiple homers in any of three state tournaments held at Jack Brown Stadium.
Jon Lund also had a big tournament for Tolna, hitting .700 (7-for-10) with two RBIs, three runs and three doubles. Slick-fielding shortstop Riley Nelson went 3-for-8 with six runs and four RBIs.
Stemen, the Class A MVP in 2014 for the champion LaMoure Merchants, helped the Cass County Catfish to the Class AA title. The Catfish featured a handful of players from LaMoure, Edgeley and the Fargo area. The team was organized and managed by Travis Jones of Edgeley.
At the plate, Stemen went 4-for-9 with four runs, two doubles and two walks. He also spun a two-hit shutout on the mound in the semifinals for the Catfish.
Stemen is an assistant women's basketball coach at Trinity Bible College. He also was a standout player on the hardcourt for the Lions, earning All-American honors in 2016.
Erstad relinquished his trademark spot in centerfield this year for the Jamestown Miller Lite Merchants. But the former multi-sport star at Jamestown High School did plenty of damage with the bat, as usual.
Erstad, who lives in Fargo and continues to manage the Merchants, went 7-for-13 with a home run, double and five RBIs. He also walked four times as the Merchants rebounded from an opening-round loss to Mayville to reel off three straight wins to claim their ninth triple A title and 10th overall.
Sam Hirchert, Dan Ross and Andrew Hill also garnered consideration.
Hirchert turned in an epic pitching performance on Sunday for the Merchants. He totaled 10 2/3 innings on the mound, getting a win in relief in the semifinals before throwing all nine innings of the championship game against the rival Jamestown Elks.
Ross tossed a shutout on the mound against Bismarck in an elimination game for the Merchants, and clubbed a grand slam in the title tilt against the Elks.
Hill collected seven hits in 12 at bats, while patrolling center field.