Bismarck Legion baseball pitcher Ian McDonald prefers pitchers' duels and he likes warm weather.
With temperatures approaching 90 degrees and humidity on the plus side of 50 percent, Tuesday was tailor-made for the Governors lefty. He responded with a route-going 3-1 victory over Williston at Municipal Ballpark.
Williston bounced back to earn a split with an 8-3 triumph in the doubleheader's nightcap. Neither game counted in the statewide Class AA standings.
McDonald's fifth win in six decisions wasn't without bumps. He surrendered seven hits, stranded seven Keybird runners and hit a batter. His longest run of perfection was eight straight batters.
However, he made the pitches when it counted.
He notched a strikeout and ground out after Williston put runners on first and second with one out in the second inning.
In the fifth, runners were left standing at first and second after Tate Ferrell singled home Ty Gerrard for the lone Keybird run. That inning ended when Williston runner Braeden Zaste was cut down at the plate. Governors center fielder Paydin Slette nailed Zaste as attempted to score from second on a single by Garrett Hill.
Koby Klassen's two-out double and an infield throwing error came to naught for Williston in the sixth.
McDonald got the route-going job done on a muggy night at the ballpark with 103 pitches, 68 of which were strikes. He had thrown 94 pitches through six innings and wasn't at all sure Govs head coach Mike Skytland would give him the green light for the seventh.
"I was a little bit surprised. ... He pulled me aside and told me I had 10 pitches to work with," McDonald said. "That's probably the first time in my life I was out there counting pitches. I wanted to get to the last guy with nine pitches or fewer."
He retired the Keybirds three up, three down in the seventh with a modest count of nine pitches.
Klassen, Williston's right-hander, kept things close, allowing Bismarck only two earned runs in five-plus innings.
A double by Matt Guenther, a single by Jalen Ziegler and a passed ball by Jaxon Meyer plated the first Governor run in the second inning.
Bismarck struck twice in the fifth on a walk to Dawson Weikum, an off-field double down the left field line by Connor Hanson and Cade Feeney's two run-single. Feeney bounced the ball through the middle with the Keybird infield drawn in.
McDonald said low-scoring games bring out the bulldog in him.
"I do like (pitchers' duels). They're fun. If you're pitching in a blowout you can lose focus. In a pitchers' duel you know you've got to do your best. ... Competitive situations bring out the best in me," he observed.
Tuesday's warm, humid conditions weren't much of a factor as far as McDonald was concerned.
"It was nice most of the game. The sun was hidden behind the clouds. ..."I'd rather pitch in heat than 40-some degrees like we do sometimes in the spring," he noted.
McDonald said he had the luxury of a full assortment of pitches to use against the Keybirds.
"Both my curve ball and slider were around the zone. I left them up a few times early, but after that I was able to get everything down in the zone," he said.
Williston struck the telling blow in the second game with a five-run fifth, sending 11 batters to the plate in the process.
Starting pitcher Stevie Kraljic didn't retire a man in the fifth as the first five batters reached base, one by error, one via walk and three on hits.
Tate Ferrell's double plated two runs and Chance Johnson singled in the third. Reliever Ben Weaver walked a man and hit a batter with the bases loaded to send home the fourth and fifth runs.
Williston right-hander Zach Carson survived a rough start to pick up the win, working five-plus innings.
Matt Guenther reached him for an RBI single in the first. In the second, a bases-loaded walk to Connor Hanson and Feeney's sacrifice fly plated two more runs.
With the non-counter split, Williston's record went to 20-11. Bismarck, 17-9, returns to action today, playing host to Fargo Post 400 in a twin bill. Both those games count in the statewide standings.