The Dickinson High and Bismarck Century baseball teams have been near the top of the West Region standings throughout the entire 2019 season.
With just over a week to go before the WDA tournament gets underway in Bismarck, the two teams faced off in a senior-night doubleheader with playoff seeding at stake. While the Patriots entered the matchup with the better overall record at 21-3, they were third in the conference standings at 13-2, while the Midgets were second with a 12-2 mark.
Powered by explosive, late offense in the opener and a near-perfect performance in the nightcap, Bismarck Century proved they may be a tier above their contemporaries to the West, earning an 11-4 victory in game one before shutting out Dickinson 8-0 in game two on Tuesday, May 14, from the Dakota Community Bank & Trust Ballpark.
"I thought our pitchers really pitched well," Patriots head coach Kent Schweigert said. "They were around the plate, they were pitching ahead, and that's a big thing. When you are throwing strikes, it makes it tough on the opponent."
Winners of their last 16 contests, including the two-game sweep, the Patriots vaulted ahead of the Midgets, who will enter the upcoming regional tournament as the No. 3 seed.
"That starts a whole new season when you get to the WDA (tournament), but we're gonna have to find a way to mentally get tough when things aren't going our way against the good teams," Dickinson head coach Pete Dobitz said. "We've been able to do it against the teams that are in the middle or bottom of the conference, but to get through that WDA tournament and get back to the state tournament, you're going to have to be able to do it against these top-tier teams."
Junior Cade Feeney was on the mound in the second game for the visitors, and as soon as the right-hander took the rubber, he had it going. Striking out the first two batters he faced, Feeney got senior first baseman Cody Maier grounded back to him to end the first inning.
The next time the Patriots went up to the plate, they got Feeney a lead thanks to an RBI single senior outfielder Paydin Slette, putting Century up 1-0.
That's all the support Feeney needed, as he retired the first 17 hitters he faced, 11 by way of the K. With a run in the third, a five-run fourth and another run in the top of the fifth, Bismarck Century established an 8-0 cushion before Feeney fanned the side in the bottom of the fifth.
"Obviously, I tried establishing my fastball right away and I did that really well today, just mixing in the off-speed stuff, trying to keep them unbalanced and not giving them too many fastballs to sit on," Feeney said.
Four outs away from being on the bad end of a perfect game, Dickinson sophomore outfielder Nathaniel Jilek stepped to the plate. After falling behind 2-0, Feeney worked the count to 2-2 before Jilek hammered a line drive over the head of the shortstop for a base hit.
Patriots sophomore catcher Colton Schulte called for a curveball to Jilek on the 2-2 pitch, but the right-hander threw a fastball.
"I got a little smile on my face. He hit the ball hard, he crushed it," Feeney said. "That happens. Shook off my catcher, I probably should have listened to him, but heck of a game. It was fun tonight."
Retiring the first six Midgets in order during the opener, Bismarck Century starting pitcher Connor Hanson showed he can also deliver a big blow with his bat, as the junior walloped a two-run home run to right field off Dickinson starter Isaac Gjerde, giving the Patriots a 2-0 advantage in the top of the third. Two batters later, Feeney rocketed a double off the left-field wall, bringing in senior infielder Treyton Mattern from first.
The road team finished its half of the frame with a 4-0 lead following an RBI single from Slette, but the Midgets had an answer in the bottom of the third.
Dickinson senior outfielder Morgan Wardner led off the third with a drive to the gap for a double. With one down, Wardner stole third and Jilek was hit by a Hanson pitch, putting runners on the corners for Troy Berg. The freshman third baseman delivered an RBI double that plated Wardner and pushed Jilek to third. Next, junior second baseman Kobe Krenz made it a 4-2 ballgame with an RBI groundout before Maier groundout out to first, ending the inning.
Gjerde responded well after his early struggles. He faced the minimum in the fourth and despite loading the bases without recording an out in the fifth, the right-hander left the frame relatively unscathed, relinquishing just one run. However, he wouldn't be as fortunate in the sixth, as Gjerde exited with the bags packed and was relieved by Berg.
Bismarck Century immediately capitalized when senior catcher Cameron Miller lifted Berg's first pitch to the opposite field for a bases-clearing double. The Patriots scored six runs that inning, while Hanson shutdown the Midgets offense, allowing just two hits and a walk in six innings.
In between games, Dickinson's seniors took to the field with loved ones as they were celebrated in their last outing at home.
"It was meaningful to me because Morgan, Cody and I have played together since we were seven and eight year-olds, and we've played together since then," senior outfielder Justin Berger said. "It's gonna suck, not playing on the field with them anymore. And it's been fun having Dobitz as a coach."
Bismarck Century 11, Dickinson 4
BC 004 016 0 - 11 15 0
D 002 000 2 - 4 2 1
BC, Connor Hanson (6), Mason Leingang (0.2), Cody Sorenson (0.1) and Cam Miller. D, Isaac Gjerde (5.1), Troy Berg (0.2), Morgan Wardner (1) and Logan Bentz.
W-Hanson. L-Gjerde. HR-None.
Highlights: BC, Cade Feeney 2-3, 2B, 3 R, RBI; Hanson 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R (2 ER), 6 K, 1 BB. D, Troy Berg 1-3, 2B, 0.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R (3 ER); Wardner 1-3, 2B, R, 1 IP, 1 H, 1 K; Gjerde 5.1 IP, 9 H, 8 R (8 ER), 2 K, 6 BB.
Bismarck Century 8, Dickinson 0
BC 011 510 0 - 8 9 1
D 000 000 0 - 0 1 3
BC, Feeney and Colton Schulte. D, Landon Aman (2.1), Logan Bentz (1.2), Dawson Dassinger (3) and Bentz, Berg.
W-Feeney. L-Aman. HR-None.
Highlights: BC, Kirklan Irey 1-2, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI; Feeney 0-3, RBI, 7 IP, 1 H, 12 K. D, Nathaniel Jilek 1-2; Aman 2.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R (2 ER), 2 K, 6 BB; Bentz 1.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R (5 ER), 1 K, 1 BB; Dassinger 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R (0 ER), 1 K, 2 BB.