WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- Giving up early runs and late runs will work out OK if you score enough in the middle innings. That was the lesson taught by Jamestown on Thursday, as they opened the North Dakota West Region Legion A Baseball Tournament with a dramatic 7-6 win over host Watford City.
The top-seeded Eagles overcame an early two-run deficit, and squelched a furious rally by the Walleye in the final inning, advancing to the tourney semifinals.
“We made that one a little closer than we needed to,” said Eagles coach Sam Joseph. “We didn’t start off very well, and obviously we didn’t end it very well, but a W is a W.”
After the host team pushed across single runs in the first and second innings to take an early 2-0 lead, the Jamestown bats came alive in the bottom of the second. Joseph said his batters like to work deep in the pitch count, but he made an adjustment and urged them to “hog the plate” and swing the bats. They did, with great success.
Brooks Roaldson led off the frame with a flyout to right but would get another chance later in the second. Jamestown sent 11 batters to the plate, pushing across six runs on four singles, a Gage Orr double, two walks, a wild pitch and a hit batter, taking a 6-2 lead.
Watford City got one back in the top of the fourth, pulling back within three runs, but Jamestown answered in the bottom of the frame. With two outs and the bases loaded, Roaldson laced a line-drive single to center, scoring Jacoby Nold from third base and making the score 7-3.
They threatened to add to the lead in the sixth, loading the bases with one out before Watford City pitcher Jordan Doty coaxed a pair of pop fly outs to end the inning. Things got dramatic in the final frame, as the Walleye loaded the bases with no outs and scored three times to pull within a run. Jackson Walters took the mound in relief of starter Connor Hoyt for Jamestown, getting a sacrifice bunt for the first out of the inning, then working back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.
“Connor did well, keeping the batters off balance, and he attacked the zone,” Joseph said. “I didn’t do him any favors. I probably should’ve pulled him before that seventh inning, but when I guy looks at you and says, ‘I want this game,’ it’s kind of hard not to give it to him ... Jackson came in and did what he always does, which is shut the door.”
Playing on a turf field, under a high, hazy sky, the Eagles made four errors, which Joseph said was uncharacteristic on a team that has been sound defensively. With the win, Jamestown improves to 20-8 on the season and advances to the region tournament semifinals. They will face either Mandan or Dickinson at 4 p.m. on Friday in Watford City.
The story on Friday's game will be available on jamestownsun.com.