Century baseball bests Shanley, advance to second straight state title game

Justin Martinez/MDN Bismarck Century sophomore Colton Schulte (right) lays down a bunt during the Patriots’ 5-1 win over Shanley on Friday in the Class A baseball state semifinal game at Corbett Field.

With a trip to the title on the line, the Patriots were seeing red.

To be fair, everybody was seeing red. In every fashion-forward individual’s nightmare, West Region No. 3-seeded Century stepped onto Corbett Field on Friday only to see that East Region No. 4-seeded Shanley was also wearing a combo of red jerseys and white pants.

But that still didn’t stop Century from standing out, as the defending state champs toppled the Deacons on Friday at Corbett Field for a 5-1 win to return to the title game.

“We just said ‘we gotta play for outs and don’t give up the big innings,'” Century head coach Kent Schweigert said. “And I think (at the plate) we were jumping on that first pitch. We had some good swings today. We really did.”

The Patriots made their move in the bottom of the second inning with the game still scoreless.

Junior Connor Weikum did the honors. With runners on second and third, the junior got every last bit of a pitch from Shanley’s Austin Manuel and sent a laser-beam shot into left field. The hit brought two runs in and gave Century a quick 2-0 lead.

Kaden Kueneman came through next. The senior got just enough air underneath a hit to right field to get past Shanley second baseman Brayden Altringer, who jumped into the air only to see the ball narrowly sail over his glove and reach the outfield for an RBI single.

Finally, Cade Feeney delivered the haymaker. The junior connected on a fastball from Manuel and sent it right back at him. The ball sped past the pitcher and eluded the infield for an RBI single to make it a 4-0 contest.

On the mound, it was all Connor Hanson. The Century junior made every hit a struggle for the Deacons, as they managed to score just one run.

That sole score came from Manuel, who nearly hit a two-run homer in the top of the fourth inning. Instead, the ball smacked the middle of the fence, and the junior slid into third for an RBI single.

In a cruel twist, Manuel attempted to come home on the next at-bat only to run into a brick wall by the name of Cameron Miller. The senior catcher gathered the toss to home and tagged Manuel for the out, halting all momentum for the Deacons.

Miller then did some damage at the plate. Still leading 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the senior sent a deep shot into the outfield for an RBI double. Miller, who hadn’t recorded a hit up until that point, shouted “I needed that” as he returned to the dugout later on.

“It was definitely a confidence booster for me,” Miller said. “(The late runs) helped us a lot. Knowing we had those extra runs on (Shanley) was big.”

The late score was the knockout blow, as the Deacons failed to get on the board after that en route to the 5-1 defeat.

Shanley will play West Fargo today at 2 p.m. in the third-place game. Before that, West Fargo Sheyenne will play Williston at 11:30 a.m. in the fifth-place game.

With the win, Century secures its spot in the state championship game. The Patriots will play Minot today at 4 p.m. in what they fully expect to be a hostile environment.

“Minot is a very good team that’s playing very good baseball right now,” Schweigert said. “They’re at home, and we know they’re going to have the big crowd. We’re just going to go out, keep playing style and enjoy the moment.”

Justin Martinez covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.