Having struck out twice with runners on base earlier in the game, Watford City senior Brandon Allex made sure to get the bat on the ball in his final plate appearance.
That may be why he swung at an 0-2 pitch up around his head, fouling it off to keep his at-bat - and the inning alive.
Allex got what he was looking for on the next pitch, hammering a shot to short that Des Lacs-Burlington's Justin Thomas couldn't control. Senior Mitchell Liebel scored as a result and the Wolves advanced to the Region 7 championship with an 8-7 victory over the Lakers in eight innings Saturday at Jack Hoeven Park. They'll play either DL-B, Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood-Glenburn-Kenmare-Bowbells or Lewis & Clark on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.
Watford City celebrates its extra-inning victory over Des Lacs-Burlington in the Region 7 semifinals Saturday at Jack Hoeven Park.
Dustin Kleppen reached base four times in Watford City’s semifinal victory over DL-B.
"He threw one right down the middle and I hit it right to the shortstop, but it went over his mit and we scored," Allex said. "I had struck out twice in this game. It was good for me. I needed it."
Allex's late-game heroics came after the Wolves squandered a five-run lead. Watford City plated three in the first inning to grab the momentum. Allex tripled to center field and scored on an RBI single by senior Trent Grimes. Liebel and senior Andrew Sampsel also collected RBIs in the opening frame.
The Wolves scored one in the second and another in the fifth to build a 5-0 lead. The Lakers left the bases loaded in the top of the fifth when Sampsel got Alex Davy to ground out to short. But DL-B broke through in a big way in the sixth, scoring five runs in the inning on four hits.
"Sometimes all it takes is one big hit and sometimes that big hit comes at the start of the inning," DL-B coach Andy Lach said. "It doesn't always come with runners on base. We just worked a couple real good at-bats and things started to fall into place for us."
Cole Hannenberg scored DL-B's first run of the game on an RBI groundout by Layton Erickson. The Lakers scored their final four runs with two outs and were aided by an error at third base to keep the inning alive. DL-B made the Wolves pay as Thomas delivered a two-run double to center field to pull the Lakers within 5-4. Thomas scored two batters later on a single by Alex Davy to right field.
"They always jump up and bite you sometimes," Watford City coach Justin Johnsrud said of his team's four errors. "We've been fortunate all year. We haven't had many errors and then all the sudden we have three or four in a row."
Watford City committed two more errors in the seventh as DL-B grabbed its first lead of the game at 7-5. Hannenberg reached on a dropped third strike when catcher Quade Shores' throw to first was off target. Hannenberg scored on a throwing error later in the inning.
"Baseball is a game of momentum and DL-B stole that from us," Johnsrud said. "Absolutely, there were doubts, but our bats have been producing all year long and you have to be confident in the things your kids can do and hopefully they come through at the right time."
The Wolves forced extra innings thanks in part to two Laker miscues in the seventh. Back-to-back errors allowed Allex and junior David Kline to reach base and score Shores to cut DL-B's lead to 7-6. Grimes popped out to the pitcher before Sampsel delivered a two-out RBi single to left field, scoring Allex from third.
The Lakers drop into the consolation bracket and play the winner of Lewis & Clark and M-L-S-G-K-B on Monday at 5:45 p.m. for a spot in the championship game.
"It'll be tough but that's how the game is, that's how life is," Lach said. "We have no choice. We have baseball left and we're going to get after it on Monday. It's tough to bounce back from a game like this, but good teams do and I think we're a good team."
Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.