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Frustration: Jays plug away despite close losses

Jamestown’s Nick Fuchs applies a tag to a Mandan runner in a home game earlier this season. The Blue Jays (9-9 overall) enter today’s home game vs. Dickinson with a 3-6 record in the West Region. Chris Aarhus / The Sun

Jamestown’s recent struggles in region competition don’t seem to have Tyler Ukestad worried.

“We know we can play with anybody in the West Region,” the senior first baseman said. “We know what we’re capable of. That’s all that really matters.”

Jamestown plays host to Dickinson at 4 p.m., today at Jack Brown Stadium, and coach Kelley Kessler is hoping the team can turn some of its close setbacks into success.

“Frustratingly, we’ve been right there,” Kessler said. “We’re competitive in games. It’s one part of the game that lets us down. … Some days the pitching’s stronger. (On Tuesday), the hitting was stronger. We’ve got to put it all together if we want to win baseball games.”

The Blue Jays are 9-9 overall, but sit just 3-6 in the West Region. They’ve lost their last two region games, falling to West Region leader Mandan and preseason favorite Minot.

The only game in which Jamestown was blown out was an 11-1 loss at Minot, which recently beat the Blue Jays 2-1 in Jamestown. The other five losses have been decided by three runs or less. In Tuesday’s game at Mandan, Jamestown even had a lead late in the game, but couldn’t protect it.

“That’s a confidence thing,” Kessler said. “You lose a few games in a row and you start to second guess whether or not you’re gonna hold on. If you start to believe it’ll happen, you can make it happen. Thoughts in your head tend to come true, whether they’re positive or negative. You’ve got to believe you can make it happen.”

Kessler said every part of the game has shown flashes of brilliance. The offense hasn’t been consistent, but it’s been enough to keep Jamestown in the mix. Ukestad hit the team’s first home run of the season on Tuesday, a three-run shot.

“It felt really nice off the bat,” Ukestad said. “I was just trying to drive the ball in that situation. We needed a ball in the gap and it happened to go over the fence.”

Getting on base hasn’t been a big problem. Driving in those runners is a different story.

“People have to make big plays at big times,” Kessler said. “Whether it’s a big hit or big defensive play — once you do that, you win some of these games.”

The team’s pitching staff has certainly been a strength, but Kessler said it hasn’t been without its struggles.

“Instead of challenging people in the zone, sometimes we try to be too fancy and strike people out,” Kessler said. “I believe with walks and hit-by-pitches, we’ve given up more base runners than we have from actual hits. Those come back to bite you. We have to challenge people in the zone.”

Williston comes to town on Saturday, with Jamestown looking for a sweep of the season series. The Blue Jays left Williston with a sweep earlier this season. Kessler said the heavy schedule could help his team the rest of the way.

“With the reschedule of Bismarck, we have 10 games left and potentially two practices,” Kessler said. “Maybe that’s a good thing, so we don’t sit in practice and dwell on how we can improve. Just get out on the field, and maybe that can turn the corner for us.”

Sun sportswriter Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or