The final week of North Dakota American Legion baseball has arrived as the North Dakota AA state tournament gets underway in Mandan on Tuesday.
For the Dickinson Roughriders, they have taken home the state championship three times before, coming in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
It has been an up-and-down season for the Roughriders, with moments of walk-off victories and going scoreless in doubleheader action.
Dickinson holds a 13-16-1 record this season but has a 5-11 record in conference play, good for the six seed in the eight team tournament. They have struggled against fellow North Dakota teams this summer, having been shutout five times against their in-state opponents.
In contrast, they have fared well against all other opponents, going 8-5-1 against out-of-state and non-conference opposition.
One thing that Dickinson head coach Tyler Frenzel said they have done well this season is play solid defense. He also believes the bats have begun to heat up lately despite being inconsistent throughout the summer.
“We had some injuries that hurt us, and it seems like the guys are starting to get healthy,” Frenzel said. “We’re finding guys that can hit the ball.”
In their last time out against Mandan on July 22, the Roughrider bats were certainly alive, as they won 12-1 with 15 hits. Frenzel highlighted Drew Kovash and Riley O’Donnell as two guys who have stepped it up lately.
One of the highlights of the season came on July 8 when the Roughriders defeated Laurel 10-9 in walk-off fashion in a game that had multiple rain delays and took nearly five hours to complete. Landon Olson wound up delivering the game-winning RBI.
That win kicked off the Roughrider tournament held in Dickinson that weekend, which arguably was their best stretch of games all summer as they finished in third place in their home tournament and went 3-1 on the weekend.
The state tournament follows a double-elimination format, which means a team needs to lose twice to fall out of the tournament.
Dickinson’s opening game will be against the Minot Vistas, the three seed. They lost both games to Minot 10 days ago on July 17. The games weren’t close as the Vistas prevailed 10-0 in both games.
“We can’t walk people and get off to a bad start on the mound,” Frenzel said. “If we can get out (to a good start) we’ll be fine.”
All eight teams will be in action on Tuesday as the tournament will get underway with Fargo Post 2 and Fargo Post 400 squaring off in the first game of the day at 10 a.m. CST. Dickinson and Minot will play in the next game at 1 p.m.
Seeds can be thrown out the door come tournament time as everyone fights to stay in the competition for as long as possible to capture the state crown. Desperation begins to kick in, and the best in every player comes out.
“After the first game and once you get into the tournament, anything can happen,” Frenzel said. “You see a lot of aces on day one and teams start to get into their pitching. It’s anybody's game after the first day.”