Patriots Babe Ruth team on hot streak as state tournament nears

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Posted: Friday, July 31, 2020 7:00 am

Head coach Kellen Enget’s MayPort-CG Babe Ruth team was rolling.

The Patriots opened their season winning their first four games and took an 8-1 record into a weekend tournament June 26 in Casselton, N.D.

Then the bottom fell out.

After outscoring their opponents 97-46 in their first nine games, the Patriots were clubbed by Wahpeton (16-4), lost by a sliver to Valley City (12-11) and got shut out by Thompson (12-0).

“They 10-runned us. That was a humbling moment for us, but it turned out to be our awakening moment,” said Enget, who’s in his second year leading the program.

“We had to decide, in that moment, whether we were OK being average or if we wanted to be better than that.”

Enget couldn’t have hoped for a better turnaround by his club. The Patriots dropped their next game to Hillsboro-Central Valley but won nine of their next 10 to advance to the state Babe Ruth tournament today (Friday) in Kindred.

Even more impressive?

MPCG beat perennial power Thompson three times in a span of seven days to punch their ticket to the state tournament.

“I’m not sure if we’ve beaten them in the past five years, so to beat them three times in a week was a pretty big deal,” Enget said.

Seeded No. 3, the Patriots beat Larimore in the opening round of the Babe Ruth region tourney and upset No. 2-seeded H-CV 7-5 led by Ethan Bergstrom, who went 3-for-4 with a double against the Blue Sox.

Those wins set the stage for a July 22 showdown with Thompson, a game the Patriots won 5-2.

Cole Kritzberger went 3-for3 and Tanner Lundwall 3-for-4 in that game while pitchers Lucas Fugleberg, Jake Hutter and Walker McGillis combined to hold Thompson to two runs.

Enget credited Hutter, Fugleberg and Bergstrom for leading the charge in the region tourney.

“Those three for sure are our rah-rah guys,” the Babe Ruth coach said. “Jake’s a good ball player and our No. 1 hitter while Lucas is a very vocal kid that the others look up to.

“Ethan is probably our most athletic kid and someone you can put anywhere. He’d run through a brick wall if you asked him to.”

MPCG and Enget had their first chance to advance to state July 23 but lost 7-6 to Thompson, which scored two runs in the seventh for a come-from-behind win.

The Patriots didn’t hang their heads in a win-or-go-home rematch with a state berth on the line, erupting for five runs in the first two innings in the region title game.

Lundwall, Hutter and Marshall Kloster had hits in the first inning and Andrew Aarsvold (double), Kritzberger and Bergstrom tagged Thompson for base knocks in the second to put MPCG ahead 5-0 after two.

The Patriots extended their lead to 8-1 with a three-run sixth and withstood a late rally by Thompson, which scored two in the sixth inning and two in the seventh in the 8-5 loss.

Enget said this year’s path to state needed a little luck – and a healthy lineup.

One year after having 18 players on their roster, 10 suited up this summer. Add in the possibility of a player catching COVID-19, and the Patriots run to state seemed unlikely.

“Technically, you are supposed to forfeit if you have only eight kids,” Enget said. “I’ve been telling the guys to take care of their bodies. It’s been a blessing that we haven’t had to deal with any of that.”

Six players on this summer’s Babe Ruth roster have been pulling double-duty on the MayPort-CG independent league team: Lundwall, Bergstrom, Hutter, Fugleberg, Aarsvold and Kritzberger.

Logging time on the field against older, more experienced players has paid dividends, Enget said.

“This week was a crazy week with them playing (independent league) and getting ready for state,” he said. “But you can see the difference it makes with how fast they play and how they react.”

The Patriots will get a tough test to open today’s tournament, which runs through Tuesday. MPCG will play LaMoure, a club that took second at the Casselton tournament in June.

If the Patriots win, they’ll play the winner between Surrey and Kindred at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. A loss would pair MPCG against the loser of those teams at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Enget said he hopes his club takes the field this afternoon with an air of confidence.

After their brief midseason swoon, the Patriots are playing their best ball of the summer.

“Things are really starting to click for us offensively and getting almost 10 hits a game,” Enget said. “If we can minimize any big innings on defense, we have as good a shot as anybody.”

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