MANDAN - The Bishop Ryan baseball team had aspirations of hoisting its first state title since 2009.
After a 5-0 loss to Grafton on Thursday at the Class B state tournament, the Lions have to shift their focus to a different title - the consolation championship.
Ryan needs to win its next two games to accomplish that task, beginning with today's matchup against Thompson at approximately 1:30 p.m. Grafton plays Beulah in a semifinal at 6:30 p.m.
The Lions scratched out just six hits - three by sophomore starting pitcher Tanner Sanders - against the Spoilers, last year's state runners-up.
"We did everything right at the plate to start the game," Ryan coach Brent Nelson said. "We were hitting some balls really hard, but it was right at them. That's the game of baseball."
Ryan's misfortunes could be summed up in the sixth inning when the Lions had two runners on base for the first time in the game. With two outs, junior Brody Bosch laced a single up the middle that would have scored pinch runner Aaron Sandy from second if he hadn't tripped rounding third base. Sandy was forced to retreat back to third, leaving the bases loaded. Sophomore Dakota Johnson grounded out to short to end the inning.
"We just couldn't catch a break," Nelson said. "That goes with a little nerves. You could tell our guys hadn't been in a state tournament. We're young, but I'm proud how we gave up five runs in the first two innings and shut them down the rest of the way."
Sanders had a tough night on the mound in the first high-pressure start of his career. After he got Grafton leadoff hitter Brett Longtin to pop out to Ryan junior Mason Kramer in foul territory, four of the next five batters reached base in the Spoilers' three-run first inning.
"They're a good-hitting team, but I didn't have my stuff today either," Sanders said.
Grafton drove across two more runs in the second inning. Sophomore Jess Suda hit an RBI double to deep center field, driving in Longtin from second. Sophomore starting pitcher Zakari Hernandez singled to bring in Suda for the game's final run.
Grafton coach Chad Kliniske said he was trying to stay "calm, cool and collected" and not "fly off the handle."
"That makes it easier to stay calm," he said of the early lead. "There was no doe-in-the-headlight look. I was expected to see a little doe-in-the-headlight look, but we didn't get that from any of the kids today. It made it easier for me not to be tense."
Ryan junior Austin Eggl relieved Sanders to start the third and limited Grafton to two hits over four innings. He struck out four. Sanders suffered the loss, allowing five runs on six hits while walking two and striking out one.
"Austin came in and did a great job," Nelson said. "His changeup was working. We're going to play for fifth now. We get to play two more games and we'll try to win both."
While the Lions put together solid at-bats, they faced another misfortune of hitting the ball right to a Grafton player. The Spoilers looked like a team itching to get back to the title game, committing no errors.
Hernandez earned the win, pitching into the seventh inning. He allowed six hits and walked four. Senior Jaime Villarreal finished the seventh, striking out two of the final three batters.
Beulah advances to semifinals
Mark Muscha and Karson Hintz each homered and the Beulah baseball team scored eight runs in the sixth for a 14-3 win against Thompson in the Class B state tournament Thursday.
Muscha and Hintz combined to go 5-for-8 with five RBIs and four runs scored. Cody Nelson and Brett Koch joined Muscha with three-hit performances.
The Miners opened the first inning with three runs and added a run in the third, fourth and fifth before plating eight in the sixth, setting up a rematch of last year's state title game against Grafton today at approximately 6:30 p.m. in the semifinals.
Patrick Becker earned the win in 4 1/3 innings. He allowed three runs on four hits while walking six and striking out three.
Thompson left 12 runners on base.
The Tommies play Bishop Ryan today at approximately 1:30 p.m. in a consolation semifinal.