MANDAN - Experience on the big stage can go a long way for a team's success and the Bishop Ryan baseball team learned that during the Class B state tournament this weekend.
The Lions capped their shortened season with a 6-4 victory against Trenton-Trinity Christian on Saturday in the seventh-place game.
Ryan's goal entering the tournament was to win its final game, but the Lions didn't think it would come in the early afternoon. Nonetheless, Ryan is one of just four teams to end its season with a win.
Bishop Ryan sophomore Jared Will connects on a pitch from Trenton-Trinity Christian freshman Austin Schell on Saturday in the seventh-place game at the state tournament in Mandan.
"It's always nice to go out on a win, but it definitely wasn't a game we came down here to play," Ryan coach Brent Nelson said. "I'm proud of the guys. After a couple tough losses, they came out and played the game of baseball."
More important than the seventh-place victory is the experience Ryan gained in its three games at Mandan Memorial Ballpark. Just three current Lions were on the roster for Ryan's last state-tournament trip in 2009, and they were all eighth-graders then. Next year, Ryan's roster will include seven seniors and five juniors, eight of which started this season.
"These guys have some experience now," Nelson said. "Any time you can get experience, it's great. Hopefully we can get back next year and we'll have that experience and hopefully win that opening game."
The only senior starter the Lions lose is left fielder Josh Schell. In his final game, Schell batted 2-for-3 with a run scored. He singled through the left side of the infield in his last at-bat.
"For our seniors, to go out and get a win and maybe prove to ourselves mostly that we deserve to be here," junior Mason Kramer said. "We got beat by a good Grafton team in the first round and Thompson, in round two, is another good team. Ending on a win is big for us."
Developing a deeper pitching staff will be among the offseason projects. Sophomore Jared Will pitched all five innings in the win against T-TC, allowing four runs on seven hits and striking out two. Will was the only Ryan pitcher to go the distance in the tournament.
Junior Tanner Sanders pitched two innings against Grafton before being relieved by classmate Austin Eggl. Junior Tyler Allers pitched the first 5 1/3 innings in a 7-3 loss to Thompson in Saturday morning's consolation semifinal. Eggl finished the final 1 1/3 innings.
"We're going to need to develop more pitching," Kramer said. "Maybe not develop more pitchers, but get deeper with the pitchers we already have. I'm excited for next season already. I like our chances."
While the Lions have their sights set on another state-tournament run next year, the same cannot be said for the Crusaders. Saturday's loss to Ryan may be the final game for the T-TC program. Nine of the 12 Crusaders are seniors, leaving coach Dave Huck uncertain of whether the program will be able to field a team next year.
"We lose a lot of seniors next year," Huck said. "It's questionable whether we'll be able to get the program going next year. If we are able to, there'll have to be some changes - whether bringing in another school or joining with another school. This experience is great for the kids to have something like this for one last hoorah in high school."
The Region 8 champions bounced back with seven hits after being no-hit by Harvey-Wells County on Friday. Leadoff hitter Trenten Hove went 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs. Senior Lane Huck finished 2-for-2 with two RBIs.