Fargo Post 2 falls to Idaho Falls in World Series championship

SHELBY, N.C. — Fargo Post 2’s bid for its first American Legion baseball World Series championship fell short Wednesday, Aug. 21, with a 5-3 loss to Idaho Falls Post 56 at Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium.

Post 2, which reached its first title game in its 91-year history, held a 2-1 lead when Tuesday night’s rain-suspended game resumed on Wednesday morning. But Idaho Falls scored three runs in the second inning and added another in the third inning.

Post 2 loaded the bases twice — once in the third inning and again in the sixth inning — but failed to score. Post 2 scored one run in the seventh inning but stranded runners on first and second to end the game.

Post 2 finishes the season with a 54-8 record, two of those losses coming against Idaho Falls at the World Series. Post 2 lost to Idaho Falls 7-3 in the opening round.

“Being here was quite surreal … getting an opportunity to win a championship was unbelievable,” said Post 2 coach Luke Rustad. “I hope our kids look at themselves and realize that Fargo Post 2 can compete with anybody in the nation. We are just that type of baseball program. This is something that isn’t just talked about but can be achieved.”

The two starting pitchers, Post 2’s Blake Anderson and Idaho Falls’ Randon Hostert, did not return to the mound Wednesday, being replaced by Colton Frey and Andrew Gregersen, respectively.

Hostert is a 6-foot-6 righthander who was drafted in the 15th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Texas Rangers. Rustad said the rain suspension may have affected his team a little bit.

“Our guys were on a big emotional high going against a big, quality pitcher,” Rustad said. “Sometimes that’s not easy to do ramping it back up the next day. But for the most part, I thought our guys were ready.”

Idaho Falls loaded the bases in the second inning with a Nick Layland single and walks to Brady Owens and Bruer Webster. Alex Cortez followed with a groundball deep in the hole at shortstop for a single and Tavyn Lords brought home two more with a single to right center.

Post 2 loaded the bases in the top of the third, but a lineout to shortstop forced a double play.

With a runner on first in the bottom of the third, Idaho Falls’ Jaxon Sorenson lined a double over the head of the right fielder, putting two runners in scoring position for Nick Layland, who hit one deep enough to center to bring in one run on a sacrifice fly.

“We gave them too many free bases,” Rustad said, referring to Idaho Falls scoring in the second and third innings. “That’s what did us in.”

An error and two walks loaded the bases for Post 2 in the top of the sixth, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. Gregersen battled Zach Kluvers to a full count before he popped out in foul territory to the second baseman.

In the top of the seventh, Post 2 put two on and Brandt Kolpack singled to bring home Cole Hage. Gregersen got a key strikeout and a ground ball from second baseman Bruer Webster to first baseman Randon Hostert to seal the victory.

On Tuesday night in the top of the first, Fargo worked very difficult counts and got the scoring started. Zach Sandy fouled off two tough pitches already in an 0-2 count before forcing a difficult play at short, reaching on an error. A groundout moved him over to second and a single by Cole Hage on a 1-2 count put runners on the corners. After an out, Brayden Koenig grounded one the opposite way through the hole for an RBI single. Kolpack followed with a single of his own to make 2-0. All four runners to reach base in the inning had two strikes on them.

Idaho Falls had three batters reach in the bottom of the frame, and just like Fargo, all three did so down to their last strike. Webster led off with a single and Alex Cortez did the same. A wild pitch moved both over and Hostert brought a run home with a hard-hit ball that forced an error. Anderson settled down and got a key strikeout and flyout to end the frame.

Three pitches into the top of the second inning, the rain came, forcing a delay and suspension.

Post 2 was playing in its fourth World Series, the first in 27 years. Post 2 played in the World Series in 1969, 1989, 1992. Post 2’s appearance in the title game marked the first time a team from North Dakota reached a World Series championship game. It marked the first time a team from Idaho won a World Series championship.

“This group is a very special group,” Rustad said of his team. “They are baseball players through and through. They are extremely hard workers, not to mention, a very talented group. I just hope that they will remember this experience forever.”