CENTRAL PLAINS REGIONAL: Thomas recovers from slow start to help Brookings beat West FargoBrookings (S.D.) head coach Rob Hirrschoff had every reason to be worried about his starting pitcher Friday morning.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Brookings (S.D.) head coach Rob Hirrschoff had every reason to be worried about his starting pitcher Friday morning.
Especially after Matt Thomas walked three West Fargo batters, hit two with pitches and watched a wild pitch score one of two Patriot runs in the first inning.
But Hirrschoff never second guessed himself. Nor did he send a reliever to the bullpen. He stuck with Thomas and it paid off.
Thomas settled in after the Bandits scored six runs in the second inning and kept West Fargo off balance en route to a 7-3 victory in an elimination game of the Central Plains Regional American Legion baseball tournament on Astoria Field at Southside Ballpark.
“Matt is the definition of a bulldog up there,” Hirrschoff said. ‘He’s been outstanding for us all year long. He’s pitched a lot in the state tournament. He’s probably getting to the point where he’s a little fatigued. But it showed how much of a competitor he is.”
Thomas pitched eight innings for the Bandits (44-9), striking out nine and allowing four hits while hitting six batters and walking five. He also went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Though he didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning, most of the right-hander’s troubles came in the first four innings.
“I haven’t had a start like that all year,” Thomas said with a smile. “My command wasn’t there or anything like that, you know. I was missing spots. I just hung with it and just kind of settled in after the first couple innings.”
As Thomas struggled early, it looked like West Fargo would have the upper hand.
Brock Evenson scored on a bases-loaded walk and Andy Young came home on a wild pitch in the first inning. But, the Patriots left three runners on base in the inning.
West Fargo (39-16), the North Dakota state champions, stranded 13 base runners in the game, giving them a total of 25 runners left on in two games at the tournament. The Patriots lost to Minnesota state champion Edina 3-2 on Thursday night.
“When you’ve got breaks like that, where you can’t get into your groove, you can’t get your pace set, there’s a batter hit here and a walk, you really can’t get hit after hit, it slows the game down,” West Fargo catcher Tucker Bucholz said. “It slows everyone’s rhythm down.”
The Patriots had their own pitching troubles too.
Starter Camran Bonnema had a solid first inning but couldn’t find his control in the second, walking the first two batters he faced and beaming the next three.
He hit two batters with the bases loaded to the tie game at 2.
Riley Bullinger, Skyler Cary and Thomas then drove in runs on consecutive at-bats to give Brookings a 5-2 lead.
Reliever Willy Barker surrendered one run with a five-pitch, bases-loaded walk to Thomas McMacken that gave Brookings a 6-2 lead.
“It was nice for us to come back and get the lead,” Hirschoff said. “We didn’t need this game to be a game when we were chasing runs the whole time. I think we were fortunate to score when we did after the outcome of that first inning for them.”
Thomas helped himself out further with a RBI single in the third to wrap up Brookings’ scoring. He struck out five and gave up all of hits over the next four innings but kept West Fargo’s threats to a minimum.
“Sometimes when that happens, the wheels come off a little bit,” West Fargo head coach Bill Ibach said. “It’s just hard. When you get behind, you start pressing with the bats and stuff. I thought we had pretty good bats and swung the bats well. We just hit the ball at people.”
Brookings faces the loser of a second-round game between Eden Prairie, Minn., and Omaha (Neb.) PI Midwest at 4 p.m. Saturday.
After a 7-0 loss to Papillion, Neb., to open the tournament on Thursday, Thomas said Brookings is playing the same way it did last week when it won the South Dakota state champions.
“We found a way to win, which we’ve been doing all year,” Thomas said. “We took it one at-bat at a time and found a way to get it done. We got the hits when we needed them, executed and took what they gave us.”
WF 200 100 000 — 3 4 2
Brookings 061 000 00x — 7 8 0
Camran Bonnema, Willy Barker (2), Matt Barclay (9) and Tucker Bucholz. Matt Thomas, Skyler Cary (9) and Austin Koenig. W–Thomas. L–Bonnema. HR–None.
Highlights: B, Thomas 8 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 9 K, 5 BB, 6 HBP. 1-for-4, 2 RBI, R; Landon Busch 2-for-5; Riley Bullington 1-for-5, RBI; Skyler Cary 2-for-5, RBI; Austin Koenig 0-for-2, RBI; Thomas McMacken 0-for-1, RBI, R; Trevor Puetz 2-for-3, RBI, 2 R. WF, Bonnema 1.2 IP, 1 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 3 HBP; Barker 6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 K, 3 BB, 1 HBP; Kory Wolden 1-for-2, 2 R; Landon Uetz 1-for-4; Andy Young 1-for-3, R; Brock Evenson 1-for-4, RBI; Tucker Bucholz 0-for-3, RBI.
Records: Brookings 44-9, WF 39-16.