STEELE, ND — The Valley City Babe Ruth baseball team isn't one that lacks team chemistry. For nearly every bobbled ball or untimely ground out, a player has no issue finding somebody who'll lift them back up.
But during a pair of upset victories at the District 6 Tournament in Steele Monday, the team's chemistry took a whole different form.
After beating LaMoure 6-5 in eight innings, Valley City's players opened a 9-3 win over Steele with energy in the dugout.
From the opening pitch, Valley City's players leaned up against the chain link fence that separated them from the action and yelled as loud as they could to encourage hitters. It kept up all seven innings.
"That was amazing," said outfielder Casey Engelhard. "I've never played in an atmosphere like that."
It was energy that translated into what became a team game as Valley City, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, eliminated Steele, the No. 2 seed.
The wins give Valley City a shot at a state berth today when the team plays a potential double header with Oakes at 3 p.m. in Steele. Oakes remains undefeated in the double-elimination tournament and will clinch the state berth with one win over Valley City. If VC wins the first game, a second game will be played at 5:30 p.m. to decide the district champion.
But in Monday's second game, it was all about the energy.
As the team cheered, Valley City put up four runs in the top of the first inning.
It started with Ben Baasch reaching on a single to right field and eventually reached third when Jacob Miller walked.
A single by Jesse Johnson then scored Baasch, Jordan Magnuson then brought Miller and Johnson in with a deep double to right field and was brought in with a single by Englehard. The team later put together a three-run third inning and a two-run sixth.
In the second, the team had contributions all around.
Magnuson, who led the team with four runs batted in and three hits in the game, was the only player to score multiple runs, putting across two. The other seven runs were scored by seven other starters. The one starter who didn't score, Collin Schroeder, contributed two runs batted in.
"These were some team wins and that's the way you want to see it," Valley City coach Lance Lukes said.
Valley City finished the game with 11 hits and drew only three walks.
Starting pitcher Nate Rodriguez, who threw the last three innings of the earlier game, threw four innings and allowed only three hits. Jesse Johnson relieved him and allowed only one hit and one run in his three innings of work. The two each had five strikeouts.
The energy of the game was credited to a close first game that lasted eight innings.
"It was mostly adrenaline from our first game," Engelhard said. "Our first game kind of powered us into the second one."
Even the final play had fans, players and coaches feeling the nerves.
In the final play, Valley City was in the field and led 6-5 over LaMoure.
LaMoure had loaded the bases with two walks and a single and had only one out.
Rodriguez struck out Quinn Alo, but Brady Thielges made contact with a blooper that looked like it was going to land in shallow left-center field.
Valley City shortstop Alex Milender had other plans with it and made a running catching over his shoulder to end it.
Milender said he was just trying to run in the direction of the ball in order to get it.
"That was just great, getting the last play to end the game," Milender said. "I was so happy that I got that catch."
The game turned out somewhat cat and mouse between the teams.
Valley City scored a run in the top of the first when Miller hit a ground rule double to centerfield that scored Baasch.
LaMoure got the run back in the bottom of the second.
Valley City took the lead back in the top of the fourth when Schroeder singled and scored Magnuson. Baasch later reached on an error to score Jonah Wolla.
LaMoure then scored three in the bottom of the inning go to up 4-3.
In top of the fourth, Valley City scored two more.
The inning started with a walk by Rodriguez, who was thrown out trying to steal second. Miller then singled to reach base and Johnson was hit by a pitcher.
Englehard got the game-tying run across when he beat out an infield ground ball that was bobbled slightly by the second baseman, but gave him enough time to sprint down the line. Miller worked his way across the plate on the play.
Johnson then scored on a passed ball to make it 5-4.
LaMoure tied it with a solo home run by Anthony Olson in the bottom of the sixth.
Neither team scored in the seventh inning, although LaMoure made it close.
Thielges started the inning with a double. He was then tagged out when the next batter hit a ground ball to Rodriguez on the mound. Rodriguez looked Thielges back towards second, started moving towards first, then turned around and got Thielges once he had committed to third.
The runner that reached on the play was then caught stealing by Miller.
Valley City won it with a two-out rally in the top of the eighth. With two outs, Johnson was hit by a pitch. Magnuson then singled to move him to third. Englehard then hit a liner to shallow right field that scored the go-ahead run.
Magnuson pitched the first five innings of the game and allowed five hits. He had six strikeouts. Rodriguez pitched the final three innings with only three hits allowed and four strikeouts.