WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- The object of baseball is to reach home. Via their good work in western North Dakota, the Jamestown Eagles will be headed home, with a chance to win a region title before they do.
The top-seeded Eagles scored early and often on Friday in the West Region semifinals, dispatching the Mandan A’s 10-2 and advancing to Saturday’s region finale. They have already qualified for the state tournament, which will be played at their home field in Jamestown starting on July 30.
In stark contrast to their tournament opener, when they came from behind and held off a late rally in beating Watford City, the Eagles seemed determined to make it a quick outing right from the first pitch on Friday afternoon.
“The boys came out ready to play today,” said Eagles coach Sam Joseph. “We set the tone getting on base right away. Jackson Walters was just a machine today, and Payton Hochhalter was a beast on the mound. He attacked the zone and let his defense work behind him. Everything we wanted to do today, we did.”
Hochhalter, the Eagles’ starter, allowed a two-out hit in the first inning, then retired the next 10 consecutive batters he faced. Meanwhile, the Eagles bats got hot, as they took a 1-0 lead in the first and just kept pouring it on.
They hit double-digits in runs by the fourth inning when Walters hit a two-run inside-the-park home run to right, giving the Eagles a 10-1 lead. Mandan got a run back in their final time at the plate, but the Eagles shut the door, improving to 21-8 on the season.
Hochhalter pitched a complete game, allowing six hits and one earned run. At the plate, Walters went 3-for-3 with four runs batted in and finished with a double, a triple and a homer but lacked the single needed to hit for the cycle.
In Saturday evening’s title game, the Eagles will face the winner between Friday afternoon’s meeting between the Minot Metros and Bismarck Reps.