Baseball coaches, it seems, never tire of emphasizing “the little things.” As tiresome as it seems, there’s a reason.
That reason was put on prominent display Tuesday as Mandan defeated Century 2-1 in an eight-inning West Region baseball encounter at Municipal Ballpark.
The visiting Patriots literally ran themselves out of a ballgame they could ill-afford to lose by neglecting those irksome little things.
Mandan, given the opportunity, won the game in overtime. Jared Walters singled to start the bottom of the eighth, was bunted to second by Jerry Carlson and scored in Matt Ziemann’s off-field RBI single to left-center.
Leadoff man Cyril Nagurski was the first Century runner to get stung.
Nagurski walked, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch, sliding in well ahead of a throw by the catcher. As he got to his feet and began dusting himself off, third baseman Alex Weiand faked a throw to the pitcher. When Nagurski stepped off the base he was tagged out.
The next two men were retired and the threat dissipated.
Mandan took a 1-0 lead in the second as Ziemann singled and went all the way to third when the ball got past right fielder Ian McDonald for an error. Ziemann rode home on Santana Butler’s single.
Another baserunning boo-boo took the starch out of a budding Patriots rally in the fifth.
Logan Krivoruchka beat out a single into the shortstop hole and was replaced by pinch runner Dillon Auck. The next hitter, Joel Thune, drilled an 0-and-2 pitch over a leaping Jarad Zittleman in right field, Auck dashing home.
However, the apparent tying run was voided when Auck was called out on an appeal for missing second base.
A sacrifice fly by McDonald brought home Thune, however, to knot the game.
Mandan pitcher Trever Leingang said it was long-time baseball and basketball coach Len Stanley, watching as a fan down the right field line, who first noticed the missed base.
“Len Stanley has been around baseball forever and he’s right 99 percent of the time,” Leingang said. “I appealed and the umpire asked ‘which runner?’ I really didn’t know for sure who missed because I was backing up home plate ... so I said ‘the first one.’ That was a big factor in the game. That one run was huge.”
Andrew Bargmann, pitching in relief of Century starter Alex Horner, pitched out of a jam in the sixth and the game went into extra innings.
Parker Harm, who took over for Leingang, dodged a bullet in the top of the eighth, surrendering two singles and hitting a batter before stranding all three runners. That set up the Braves’ winning rally.
Century won 10-2 in the nonregional second game. The Patriots fell to 8-5 in the region, while Mandan improved to 8-4.
Ziemann said he was just trying to get the bat on the ball when he rapped his game-winning hit.
“I just wanted to put the ball in play. If you hit the ball hard, good things happen,” he said. “... It was a fastball on the outer half of the plate, probably right where he wanted to put it.”
Leingang, a senior right-hander, is normally the Braves’ catcher. He was making his first start of the season on the mound. He said his game is to hit spots.
“I wanted to keep the ball down in the zone because I’m not a guy who’s going to strike guys out,” he said. “... I’ve got to hit my spots, change speeds and keep the hitters off balance.”
“The defense made plays behind me and that gave me confidence,” Leingang added. “... We got a couple of bounces and came out with a win.”
Mandan head coach Dewitt Mack said a tight game with Century was predictable.
“It was a great game. Century and us always battle,” he said.
Mike Gustavsson, who shares Century coaching duties with Kent Schweigert, said the game was a winnable one that got away.
“It’s the little things that let you win games and we didn’t do two little things,” he said.
The setback was a costly one for Century. With five regional losses, the Patriots now trail Dickinson (three losses) and Minot, Bismarck and Mandan (four losses) in the loss column.
“It was a big game for us,” Gustavsson said. “We asked the kids to step up the defense and they did ... and we pitched well.”
Gustavsson took consolation in the fact that Century played well in both games.
“Our focus is to be ready for WDA and we played some really good baseball today,” he said.
Century has just one regional game remaining. The Patriots play at Jamestown on Thursday.
Mandan plays doubleheaders with St. Mary’s on Thursday and Saturday at Memorial Ballpark. Thursday’s contests are home games for St. Mary’s.
Mandan 2, Century 1
Century 000 010 00 — 1 5 1
Mandan 010 000 01 — 2 6 0
Alex Horner, Andrew Bargmann (5) and Chandler Aarfor; Trever Leingang, Parker Harm (8) and Matt Ziemann, Leingang (8). W — Harm, 3-2. L — Bargmann, 3-1. HR — None.
Highlights: C — Joel Thune 1-for-3, triple, 1 R. Ian McDonald 1-for-2, 1 RBI. Horner 41/3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 SO. Bargmann 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO. M — Ziemann 2-for-3, 1 R, 1 RBI. Santana Butler 1-for-2, 1 RBI. Jared Walters 1-for-4, 1 R. Leingang 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO. Harm 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 SO.
Century 10, Mandan 3
Century 003 70 — 10 11 0
Mandan 300 00 — 3 7 2
Joel Thune, Nate Ziegler (5) and Cole Foss; Santana Butler, Jerry Carlson (4), Dylan Scherr (4) and Matt Ziemann, Richard Bendish (2). W — Thune, 2-1. L — Carlson, 0-1. HR — None.
Highlights: C — Tanner Wolf 2-for-4, double, 2 R, 1 SB. Dalton Feeney 2-for-4, triple, 1 R, 3 RBIs. Logan Krivoruchka 1-for-3, triple, 2 R, 1 SB. Ian McDonald 2-for-3, 1 R, 2 RBIs, 2 SB. Andrew Bargmann 2-for-3, 2 RBIs, 1 SB. Thune 1-for-3, 2 RBIs. M — Scherr 2-for-2, 1 R. Parker Harm 1-for-3, double, 1 R. Butler 1-for-2, double, 1 R, 1 RBI. Levi Boehm 1-for-2, 1 RBI.
Records: Century 8-5 West Region, 17-10 overall; Mandan 8-4, 10-11.