Home-field advantage: Jr. High baseball team wins consolation title in home tourney
Valley City Junior High catcher/pitcher Jordan Magnuson swings at a pitch during Saturdayâ€™s home tournament. The Hi-Liners used the expansive, fenceless space at Hi-Line Park to their advantage with numerous extra-base hits.
For the most part, the Valley City Junior High School baseball team has played its home games away from Charlie Brown Field, instead, playing their games at Hi-Line Park.
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It's a park that plays differently than it's counterpart to the direct north.
Most notably, there is a distinct lack of fences separating the play from the soccer nets and backstops in the distance.
"It's pretty big out there," Jordan Magnuson, a pitcher and catcher for the Hi-Liners, said about the outfield. "If you get a hold of one and it goes over the left fielder's head, it's going to keep going and you have a home run, pretty much."
Saturday, the junior high team used that trait to its advantage, getting numerous extra-base hits in the expansive outfield to win the consolation championship at the annual Hi-Liner Junior High Baseball Tournament.
Valley City lost 4-2 in its opening game to eventual champion Fergus Falls (Minn.), but beat Hatton/Northwood 4-3 and Fargo South 5-3 in the consolation championship, which resulted in a celebration that included silly string being sprayed and sports drinks being dumped on teammates' heads.
"We won two straight. It was a good day for us," said Valley City coach Jonathan Daluge.
It was success Daluge credited to strong pitching throughout the day.
In the first game, the Hi-Liners had Nate Rodriguez on the mound, but were hurt by small errors and mistakes.
"We came back and we played really well," Daluge said.
In the 4-3 win over Hatton/Norwood, the Hi-Liners started the game on an offensive note.
Leadoff hitter and pitcher Dalton Ondracek led off the game with a triple to left field that started in the grass before rolling on the dirt of a nearby softball diamond.
Magnuson then followed it with an inside-the-park home run that landed in the same area, then rolled further. The two run knock gave the Hi-Liners a 2-0 lead.
Hatton/Norwood tied it in the top of the second with two runs, then took a 3-2 lead in the top of the third.
Magnuson came through again from the plate in the bottom of the third, hitting a single to left field. The then stole second and later scored on a two-out triple by Rodriguez.
The Hi-Liners winning run came in the bottom of the fourth inning when Garrett Suhr reached on an infield single with two outs and eventually scored on a single to left field by Ondracek.
When the Hi-Liners took the field again, Ondracek struck out two of the last three batters and retired the final one on an infield ground ball.
Ondracek threw a complete game with six strikeouts in five innings pitched.
In the consolation championship, the Hi-Liners again came out alive offensively.
Ondracek and Magnuson each started the game with singles. Rodriquez later reached on a walk.
Ondracek scored on an infield ground ball by Jonah Wolla. Drew Oberlander then hit a shallow fly to right field that scored Magnuson and Rodriquez to go up 3-0.
The Hi-Liners then went up 4-0 the next inning when Suhr hit an inside-the-park home run the left field gap in the second inning.
South scored two runs in the top of the third to make it 4-2, but two runs was as close as it got.
Valley City scored one more in the bottom of the fourth and South had an inside-the-park home run in the top of the fifth.
Magnuson threw a complete game for the Hi-Liners with five strikeouts, including three in the top of the fifth.
Daluge credited the success to both a recent influx of hitting, combined with strong pitching throughout the day.
Both Daluge and Magnuson said the pitching wasn't anything fancy, but simply an ability to throw strikes.
"We're just trying to have them throw strikes and challenge batters with fastballs," Daluge said. "If they can establish their fastball, everything else falls into place."