In a doubleheader split with Fargo South Thursday, the Valley City Junior High baseball team had plenty of reasons it could have gotten down on itself.
For one, until the Hi-Liners had a walk-off hit to win the first game 4-3 in six innings, they never held a lead.
Then, in the second game, the team allowed six runs in the top of the first inning.
But in both situations, the Hi-Liners simply kept swinging the bat, playing defense, and generally having fun.
The result were two close games — a 5-3 win in six innings, and a 9-6 loss.
“They don’t really give up and we never really have,” coach Jonathan Daluge. “I mean they’ve always come back against teams and they always kind of keep to the grind.
“It’s awesome to see and awesome to coach. I mean you can do a lot of things with that.”
In the first game, the Hi-Liners fell behind 2-0 in the first inning after Fargo’s first two batters reached base — one on a single, the other on a dropped third strike— and eventually scored.
Valley City got one run back in the bottom of the first, then tied 2-2 it in the second when leadoff hitter Anthony Capistran was hit by a pitch and later scored.
Both teams scored a run in the third inning, with the Hi-Liners’ tying run coming on a wild pitch that allowed Alex Milender to dash to both third base and home plate.
Valley City was kept in the game by pitcher Dalton Ondracek, who pitched 4.1 innings and allowed only three runs.
He was replaced by Nate Rodriguez after loading the bases with one out in the top of the fifth. Rodriguez then struck out the first batter he faced and got a flyout to end the inning.
“He was just kind of mixing it up and just going with his strengths,” Daluge said about Ondracek. “He does throw a lot of strikes. That’s why we like him and that’s why we put in Nate as well. They both throw a lot of strikes. At this age, that’s what we want to see and that’s what we like.”
Rodriguez pitched the sixth inning and retired the side in four batters, which set him up for the win in the bottom half.
Rodriguez led off for the Hi-Liners in the bottom of the sixth and reached base on a walk. Drew Oberlander then had a single to left field.
After another single to load the bases, they were brought in on a double by Capistran to left field, ending the game.
In the 9-6 loss, the Hi-Liners took a different pitching strategy, using a new pitcher each inning of the game, including two in the first.
“Next week we have Thursday, Friday, Saturday (games) so we wanted to see all the arms that we have and see what we can use in certain situations,” Daluge said. “We’re just having the kids get out there and getting their experience.”
The only issue the younger pitchers dealt with was a lack of control at times, including the first inning, when the Hi-Liners allowed six runs on four walks, two errors, and two singles.
The team responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning, brought on by three hits and two key fielding errors that allowed runs to score.
Throughout the rest of the game, the Hi-Liner pitchers kept the game from getting out of hand and the offense matched what Fargo South put out.
The Hi-Liner offense included a solid performance from Halverson, who went 2-3 with two triples. He finished with three RBI and one run scored.
“We usually like him lower line-up because he gets a lot of fast balls and he’s a fastball hitter,” Daluge said. “The second game we just gave him a chance and we put him in the three spot and it really helped us. He hit the ball well.”