It had the look and feel of a championship game, even if it was only a semifinal contest.
For the third straight Class B state tournament, Central Cass and Enderlin-Maple Valley matched up, but this was the first time it hadn't been for the state title. It was still as nerve-racking and emotional as a championship game, but only one team gets to play for their second state title.
That distinction belongs to Central Cass, which held off its rival 16-14 on Friday at South Hill Complex. The Squirrels play Kindred-Richland in an all-East Region championship today at 3:30 p.m.
Central Cass junior Jaden Spooner drills a three-run home run to center field during the fourth inning of the Squirrels’ 16-14 victory over Enderlin-Maple Valley in the Class B state semifinals Friday at South Hill Complex.
"Stressful would be an understatement," Central Cass coach Scott Kost said. "They're a really good team. We knew they were going to be a good team. They hit the ball well. We've had battles with them over the years and this was another one."
The Squirrels (18-4) used the long ball to jump out to a 5-0 lead after a half inning. Senior Kennedy Bresnahan led off with a ground-rule double and junior Alissa Erickson followed with a two-run shot to left. Classmate Jessie Roesler added Central Cass' second two-run home run two batters later. Junior Mercedes Sweep drove in classmate Jaden Spooner to cap off the inning.
Sweep connected on a two-run homer in the third to give Central Cass a 7-2 lead.
"It's always easier to play from ahead," Kost said. "That was a huge deal. We came out and hit the ball. I wish we would have came out and played a little better defense and held them to fewer runs, but it was a good battle."
E-MV (13-7) didn't go quietly. The Falcons chipped away at Central Cass' lead with a pair of runs in both the third and fourth innings, but couldn't keep the Squirrels' offense in check. Spooner connected on the team's fourth homer of the game, this one a three-run shot to straightaway center. She finished 4-for-5 with a home run, double, four RBIs and four runs scored.
"As soon as it came off the bat I knew that thing was gone and it felt so good," Spooner said.
E-MV made it a game in the fifth, plating five runs to pull within 13-12. The Falcons scored all five runs with two outs and got a lift from Megan Kasowski, who crushed a three-run home run to center. E-MV had six hits in the frame, including four straight singles before Kasowski's dinger.
"We have to bat, too, and we have solid bats," E-MV coach Lacey Hauser said. "We never struck out once during this game. Everyone wanted a piece of that ball and sometimes they found holes and sometimes they didn't."
The teams traded a run in the sixth as the E-MV senior Megan Johnson belted the Falcons' second and the game's sixth home run.
The Squirrels posted three runs in the top of the seventh. Spooner and junior Macie Romsdal recorded RBIs and Central Cass scored another on a fielding error. E-MV committed five errors and Central Cass had three.
Abbie Tinjum and Kasowski touched home in the bottom of the seventh via wild pitches for the Falcons. But Kaylee Johnson grounded out to second and Megan Johnson flied to center to end the game.
The teams combined for 31 hits. It was the fifth time this season Central Cass has scored at least 16 runs.
"We've played them the last two years in the championship game so we talked about that going into it and how it was like a championship game and we just had to go out and win," Spooner said.
E-MV will play Westhope-Newburg-Bottineau for third place today at 11 a.m.
Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.