Renville County knocks off Thompson in state first round
Down go the three-time defending state champions.
District 2 Tournament runner-up Renville County stunned the reigning Class B American Legion state champions Thompson Friday afternoon in the first round of the Class B Independent State Tournament at Corbett Field in Minot.
The Muskrats (29-9) won 4-1 behind a dominating pitching performance from Dalton Moberg and a balanced offensive attack.
“This is awesome,” Renville County head coach Bart Savelkoul said. “We have been chasing that Thompson team for a while. With this group of kids, we have had postseason battles with Thompson and never won. In fact, they have all been blowouts the other way. So, this was a big bucket list moment for these kids to final check one off against Thompson.”
Flipping the script in a one-game playoff contest with a spot in the state semifinals up for grabs is precisely what dreams are made of.
“We have struggled against them in the past because they always have a really good team,” Moberg said. “But, to get this one on them, feels really good. It’s a boost to our confidence, for sure.”
The Muskrats kept their composure despite Thompson taking an early 1-0 lead, as South Dakota University commit Clay Odenbach smacked an RBI single in the opening frame.
Renville County answered with a bases-loaded fielder’s choice that turned into a controversial double play when batter Brock Depute collided with Thompson first baseman Wade Strande. Depute was tagged out while being face down his stomach after missing the bag.
Moberg harnessed the Muskrats’ frustrations of the unusual incident on the next pitch. He powered a deep flyball into the right-field corner and sprinted his way to third base for an RBI triple.
“Right away, there are always some (nerves),” Moberg said. “But, they fade away once you go out onto the field. I felt good.”
After showcasing his talents with the bat, Moberg then went back to work on the mound. Renville County’s starting pitcher dialed in to keep the Muskrats up a run. Keeping Thompson off balance was paramount.
“We had a scouting report that (Thompson) struggled with off-speed pitches,” Renville County catcher Henry Savelkoul said. “Moberg is one of our better pitchers with off-speed pitches and has the confidence to throw them. So, that’s what you saw earlier in the game — a lot of off-speed. Then, when they adjusted to that, we started throwing more fastballs. He did a great job of executing that plan. It worked perfectly for us.”
Moberg kept throwing zeros on the scoreboard. Much ado to the Muskrats’ defense, which stayed busy throughout the affair and didn’t commit an error.
“I don’t know how many groundouts we had, but it was a lot,” Bart Savelkoul said. “(Moberg) was missing barrels, and the defense played well behind him.”
On the other hand, a Thompson throwing error across the infield gifted Renville County two runs in the fourth inning. The costly two-out miscue put the Muskrats up 4-1.
Both teams left runners on base and didn’t manage to score in a tense sixth inning. Kyle Odenbach pitched all six innings Thompson, allowing four runs on 11 hits.
Moberg capped his complete-game showing in style with a 1-2-3 seventh inning that featured a groundout and two strikeouts. The Renville County supporters in attendance rose to their feet and provided a standing ovation right before Moberg fired in the final strike.
Eight different Muskrats collected a hit in the contest. No. 9 hitter Kaleb Foltyn went 3-for-3 with a run scored. Moberg had two hits.
“That goes to show our team experience,” Bart Savelkoul said. “I don’t think anybody was that nervous today. I was kind of worried about that, but everybody was loose and calm in the box, just relaxed. They saw the ball well. I’m definitely happy with our hitting.”
Renville County advances to the state semifinals to face LaMoure at 5:30 p.m. this evening. Thompson drops to the consolation side of the bracket to take on Hazen at 12:30 p.m. this afternoon. All games are being held at Corbett Field in Minot.
“You don’t get any second chances,” Moberg said. “You have to win them all.
Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.