Long ball Expedition

Home Run Derby brings post-Fourth fireworks

James Lafakis/MDN Wheat City Whiskey Jacks utility player Dawson Forcella swings at a ball at the 2019 Expedition League Home Run Derby at Corbett Field.

Bo McClintock sauntered to the plate. Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” blared over the loudspeakers. The Corbett Field crowd greeted him with a golf clap, then began to chant, “Bo! Bo! Bo!”

“It’s always a little bit of an advantage having the hometown be a little bit louder when you walk up,” McClintock said. “They give you encouragement to keep going, and it was a lot of fun. It was really great, getting to do it here at home.”

The Souris Valley Sabre Dogs infielder put on an early show at the 2019 Expedition League Home Run Derby, smacking 11 home runs in the first round. One towering ball even collided with a pole well beyond the left field fence.

Spearfish Sasquatch left fielder Z Westley topped McClintock’s efforts, eliminating the hometown hero with eight home runs in the second round. Westley then clobbered nine home runs in the semi-final round, advancing to the final against Hub City Hotshot catcher Rob Meidl.

Because of time constraints, the pressure intensified in the derby’s finale. Each batter received just 90 seconds to hit as many home runs as possible. They were not granted any timeouts.

James Lafakis/MDN Souris Valley Sabre Dogs infielder Bo McClintock returns to the bench after completing his first round.

Meidl did not hit any balls over the fence. On his second swing in the final round, Westley unloaded. The crowd waited with bated breath. Time seemed to halt. Anticipation dripped through the air.

The ball kept carrying… carrying… Gone.

Thirty seconds later, Westley’s Spearfish teammates mobbed him at home plate. They showered the champion with a celebratory Powerade ice bath.

“I didn’t know if it was going to get out,” Westley said. “But it creeped over the wall. We celebrated after that, and these guys are just so much fun to be around. I was sweating and breathing pretty hard toward the end, so the ice bath felt good.”

One swing fulfilled Westley’s wish.

“Coming in, I really wanted to win it,” Westley said. “Spearfish is a really cool place, and it’s somewhere I’ve really loved playing this summer. Just to bring it home for people back there, my teammates and the guys who have been around all summer, that’s the coolest part about it.”

Westley went home with the crown, but the Magic City faithful enjoyed a taste of some more local flavor. Wheat City Whiskey Jacks and Minot State catcher Dawson Forcella received cheers and whistles throughout the night. Forcella hit six home runs, but was eliminated after the initial round.

The night offered fun for the whole family. Expedition League All-Stars put smiles on young fans’ faces after signing autographs at the Fan Fest presented by Visit Minot. After the derby’s festivities concluded, dozens of groups gathered on the diamond to watch an all-time classic “Sandlot” under the sunset.

Those same fans will have another chance to watch the Expedition League’s best ballplayers. Souris Valley hosts the Expedition League All-Star Game tonight at Corbett Field. The game will begin at 7:05 p.m., and eight Sabre Dogs will represent the hometown team.

Wiping his brow in the sweltering heat, McClintock offered one final message.

“Dogs are hot,” McClintock said. “That’s all I’ve got to say. Dogs are hot.”

Jimmy Lafakis covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.