Still on top

SURREY – Surrey-Our Redeemer’s senior John Reiten steps to the plate.

Bottom of the sixth. Bases loaded. Two outs. His Mustangs trailing by one run.

Reiten knows a base hit will win it.

But on the third pitch he saw, Reiten popped up to shallow left field.

“I think I yelled, ‘darn it,’ or something like that,” he said. “I was pretty angry. It was a high fly, especially with this wind swirling around today.”

That swirling wind posed problems for Velva-Drake-Anamoose.

Charging in on the towering pop-up, V-D-A sophomore left fielder Jon Thomas put himself in position to make the catch, but the ball eluded his outstretched glove.

It then fell to the ground, allowing two Surrey-Our Redeemer’s runners to score. Those runs turned out to be the game-winners, as the Mustangs erased a six-run defict to claim a 7-6 win over the Aggies in Region 6 play.

“It happens,” V-D-A coach Matt Weidler said. “You can sit and be mad about it, or you can respond. That’s one thing about baseball. It’s a lot more mental than it is physical most of the time.

“He’ll be fine. You just have to let it go.”

Through four region games, the Mustangs are in first place with a 3-1 record.

“We’re 3-1, but we still have a lot of room to grow,” Surrey-Our Redeemer’s coach Bruce Mack said. “We’re awfully young and we’re awfully green, and it shows on the field defensively, on the base paths. We have a lot of work to do. We’ve played well. We’ve beat some good teams. Velva’s a good team, and Ryan, they’re a good team.

“We just have to keep getting better, keep progressing, keep learning. Those younger guys at the end of the year aren’t going to be younger guys anymore. They’re going to have that game experience, and we’re going to have to lean on that a little bit.”

The Mustangs had to battle for their third region win.

After plating one in the first inning, the Aggies opened a 4-0 lead after two. Sophomore infielder Nick Effertz drove in a pair in the second inning, taking the first pitch he saw into right field for a two-run single.

The Aggies added to their lead in the fifth, as a pair of Surrey-Our Redeemer’s errors led to as many V-D-A runs. That opened a 6-0 lead for the visitors.

Surrey-Our Redeemer’s starter Jayden Wetzel labored through five innings, walking four while giving up six runs – four earned – on four hits.

But the Mustangs weren’t done fighting.

“That’s why you play the game. There’s no lead that’s ever safe, and that’s why you keep competing,” Weidler said. “You look at it from their perspective, and they just kept competing. The game wasn’t over, and they were going to finish hard no matter what. Credit to them.”

V-D-A senior pitcher Shad Vedaa had been nearly unhittable, as he faced fewer than five batters in each of the first four innings.

That changed in the fifth.

After starting the inning with a routine fly out to right, the Mustangs strung together six hits over their next eight at-bats. Breyden Lee’s two run-single was the fifth of those base knocks, and brought Surrey-Our Redeemer’s back to within 6-5.

“That’s what we need to see,” Mack said. “We have to do things like that, because we easily could have rolled over, went belly up and said enough’s enough, but we didn’t. We scored another run and ended up taking a lead there on a ball hit in the outfield. It’s nice to see us come back and be able to do that, for sure.”

Vedaa gave up five runs in as many innings on the mound, but he escaped the decision. After relieving Vedaa in the sixth, Effertz was tagged with the loss after yielding a pair of unearned runs.

Effertz also went 1-for-2 at the plate with two walks and two runs scored.

For the Mustangs, Chase Hiller – who picked up the save – finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and a pair of runs, while Reiten and Connor Dyke also registered two hits apiece.

The Aggies welcome Central McLean in another pivotal Region 6 showdown at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Surrey-Our Redeemer’s hosts Max-Garrison at the same time and date.

Joe Mellenbruch covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.