When it comes to playing in the Class B baseball state tournament, Mikey Morris has “been there, done that.”
Morris helped Beulah to a fifth-place finish in the 2015 state tournament, and second place the following year.
There was no state tournament for Beulah in 2017, but Morris and the Miners earned a return trip to the big show this year. They defeated Shiloh Christian 5-3 in eight innings last Thursday in the Region 8 championship game. Shiloh was the defending regional champion.
Beulah, the state tournament’s No. 5 seed, will face No. 4 Velva-Drake-Anamoose in today’s quarterfinals at Jamestown’s Jack Brown Stadium. Game time is 7 p.m.
Morris, who graduated from Beulah High School earlier this month, said playing in one state tournament was thrilling enough. Playing in three?
“I feel really fortunate. There are a lot of players out there who never had the opportunity to play in one state tournament, so this is something I’ll never take lightly,” Morris said. “I’ve been part of a baseball program that has been solid for a long time ... every year we’ve been region contenders. The coaches here have done a great job building a winning tradition.
“This (state tournament berth is) more special than the other two because this is the last year for me and my classmates,” he continued. “The state tournament is where every senior wants to finish his high school career. This will be our last hurrah and we’re hoping to make the most of it.”
Beulah went 4-1 in the Region 8 tournament to qualify for the Class B final eight for the fifth time in seven years. The Miners finished in a three-way tie with Shiloh and Hazen for first place in the final region standings, but tie-breakers dropped the Miners to the No. 3 seed. However, Beulah defeated Heart River 11-1 in the first round, No. 2 Hazen 19-1 in the second round, and No. 1 Shiloh 6-4 in the semifinal. The defending champion Skyhawks bounced back with an 11-6 victory over the Miners to force a second title game, and very nearly made it two consecutive region championships. Shiloh trailed 3-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, but evened the score at 3-3. The Skyhawks had the bases loaded with two out, but Beulah reliever Mason Dolbec retired the ever-dangerous Canaan Fagerland to force extra innings.
Shaye Yeager and Derek Ferebee each drove in a run in the top of the eighth to give the Miners a 5-3 lead, and Ferebee pitched a scoreless bottom-of-the-eighth to close it out.
“It was a heck of a game and a heck of a tournament. The kids stepped up and played well,” said Beulah coach Bob Koch, whose team carries a 22-7 record into the state tournament. “I felt that the top three teams (Shiloh, Hazen and Beulah) all had the talent to make it to the state tournament, and that it was going to be a battle from start to finish. Our kids went out and earned it. They came ready to play.”
Morris, who earned all-state honors last year, has put together another impressive season for the Miners. He’s batting .422 (27-for-64) with six doubles, a triple, a home run, 33 runs scored, and 21 runs batted in. On the mound, he’s 2-1 with a 1.98 earned run average and 18 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings of work.
Morris has also been a mainstay at shortstop since his freshman year.
“Mikey has been a solid all-around player the last four years. We've had a lot of success in that time and he's a big reason why,” Koch said. “Hitting, pitching, defense … he’s been outstanding. As a coach, I couldn’t ask for more from a player. He’s having a nice season, and it’s been fun watching him become the leader that he is. He’s become more of a coach on the field.”
Morris said he was surrounded by influential leaders early on.
“I was pretty young when I started playing varsity, and there were lots of older guys who set a great example for me,” he said. “One was Alec Battest (a 2016 Beulah graduate and Class B senior athlete of the year). He helped me out a lot and I always looked up to him. As I got older I knew I had to take on that role. I’ve tried my best to take what I’ve learned and pass it on to the younger guys.”
Fellow seniors Ferebee, Aaron Vallejo and Dolbec are also having productive seasons.
Ferebee, who missed all of last season because of an injury, is batting .646 (51-for-79) with 14 doubles, three triples and a home run. He has scored 39 runs and driven in 25. He also sports a 2-2 pitching record.
Vallejo, the Region 8 senior athlete of the year, leads the Miners with a 0.78 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 27 innings. He has a 2-1 record. Vallejo is also batting .625 (45-for-72) with 15 doubles, four triples, a home run and 33 runs batted in.
Dolbec, who was slowed by a shoulder injury for part of the season, has a .516 on-base percentage. On the mound, he’s 2-1 with a 3.87 ERA in 12 2/3 innings.
“Coaches expect their seniors to step up and lead, and that’s what my four seniors have done all year,” Koch said. “I can’t say enough about them. They’ve stepped up in all areas.”
Other major contributors include juniors Yeager (.342, 14 runs, 14 runs batted in, 2-0, 20 2/3 innings), Dawson Bieber (.381, 22 runs, 11 runs batted in), Braden Zuroff (.373, 18 runs, 15 batted in), Brayden Moore (.327, 17 runs, 3-0, 1.61 ERA, 13 innings), and Chase Remboldt (.400); sophomore Korey Rueb (.361, 15 runs, 31 batted in), and eighth-graders Trey Brandt (.667, 15 runs, 11 batted in) and Trapper Skalsky (.413, 19 runs, 12 batted in).
Morris, who is also a three-time all-state selection in football, hopes to play baseball at the collegiate level. Before he walks away from high school baseball, he wants to help Beulah capture its first state championship since 2012.
“I would love to be part of that. We want to enjoy the moment, but the goal is to go there and win," he said. "We’re going to take it one game at a time and hopefully we’ll be successful.”