Century tops Minot 7-2, wins second straight state baseball title
With the crowd hollering and Minot’s dugout fired up, only one person on the Bismarck Century side was clapping.
That person was Kent Schweigert. With a killer poker face and a soothing tone to his voice, the Patriots head coach assured his kids that all was OK.
“Hey, there’s a lot of game left, guys,” Schweigert told his team. “Stay focused.”
The Patriots got an early wake-up call on Saturday in the top of the first inning during their state championship game against the Minot High Magicians. After Magi sophomore Chase Burke came through with a single off Century pitcher Skyler Riedinger on the opening at-bat of the game, Alex Schimke aimed for the fences and sent an absolute bomb to right center field.
The senior slid into third for an RBI triple and let out a powerful yell as the dugout erupted and a well-timed train sounded off in the distance. For a Century team that hadn’t trailed all tournament, things just got real.
“I was a little nervous right away just because (Minot) strung together some hits,” Riedinger said. “But I knew that I couldn’t break down. I just had to stay strong.”
Sure enough, the Patriots showed the hearts of champions from that point on. Century took control and ultimately cruised to a 7-2 victory to become the first team to ever win back-to-back state titles in Class A baseball history.
“I told the guys that the first (title) is tough, but the second one is even tougher,” Schweigert said. “This was the goal we had all year. We were so focused this weekend, and I’m so proud of the guys.”
Century didn’t waste time responding. Down 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning, senior Kirklan Irey connected on a pitch from Minot’s Dylan Buchanan and hustled to first to beat the throw.
The Patriots then got a little help, as the throw eluded Minot first baseman Jack Plemel’s glove and rolled behind him, allowing two runs to score.
Still leading 2-1 in the top of the third inning, Century fended off a game-tying attempt by Minot’s Nicholas Murphy, who went into an all-out sprint from third base to home. But, a bullet of a throw from Century’s Connor Hanson found the glove of catcher Cameron Miller, who quickly turned and tagged Murphy just in time to get the out and preserve the slim 2-1 advantage.
Now in the bottom of the fifth inning, things began to unravel for the Magi. Century’s Riedinger and sophomore teammate Colton Schulte recorded back to back RBI doubles in what was an explosive five-run inning for the Patriots that pushed their lead to 7-1.
For Riedinger, the now six-run advantage was all he needed to ease his mind and put on a show on the mound. The junior allowed just one run and two hits the rest of the way in a complete game to lead his team to the 7-2 victory.
“I feel a lot better pitching with a bigger lead,” Riedinger said. “The fast and the curve were working pretty well, so that’s what helped me today. (My arm) actually feels pretty good right now. It’s a little sore, but I’ll be alright.”
A pop fly by the Murphy in the top of the seventh inning fell snuggly into the glove of Century right fielder Paydin Slette for the final out, and madness ensued. The Patriots stormed the field and formed a dog pile on the mound in celebration of their second straight state title.
Schulte recorded two RBIs and one run on 2-for-3 hitting in the win, while Slette finished with one RBI and one run on 1-for-2 hitting.
Schimke tallied one RBI and one run on 2-for-2 hitting for the Magi, while fellow senior Kyler Stenberg contributed one RBI on 1-for-3 hitting in a game that marks the end of the duo’s high school careers.
For a Minot team that entered the West Region Tournament as the No. 6 seed and the state tournament as the No. 4 seed, head coach Pete Stenberg and his group held their heads high after the loss.
“We didn’t play clean baseball all the way through, and you can’t do that in a state title game,” Pete Stenberg said. “But I’m very happy and proud of what we did this year. We have a great group of athletes and young men that are going to be successful in whatever they do (moving forward).”
Justin Martinez covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.