Beulah's road to the state tournament wasn't easy.
After claiming a region title in 2013, the Cyclones set out to make it two straight last weekend in Makoti. It was a goal they eventually realized, but it came with plenty of adversity.
Makoti clipped top-seeded Beulah 2-0 in the second round, sending the Cyclones into the losers' bracket. But they weren't kept down for long, winning each of their next five contests including two against the Mavericks in the championship round to clinch the region title.
Beulah entered the 2013 state tournament as the favorites, but failed to deliver a championship. Now winners of five straight after clinching the West Region title, the Cyclones hope to make noise at the Class A state tournament, which begins today in Wahpeton.
After a 5-3 win over Velva in the second round, Watford City conceded 26 runs over its final two West Region tournament games in Makoti.
The Cyclones (20-20) are heating up at the right time. They know it, too.
"We want to go win it," Beulah coach Ryan Bodell said of the Class A American Legion state tournament, which begins today in Wahpeton. "I think we have enough depth on the pitching mound, and we've got some great hitters. If we keep playing good defense and keep hitting, I think we'll be all right."
This weekend is also about redemption for the West Region's top seed.
The Cyclones hosted the state tournament last summer a competition many had picked them to win but their performance was underwhelming. Two losses in three games handed Beulah an early exit.
"Obviously our goal was to win state, so that loss motivates our guys to get back there again and have another crack at it," Bodell said. "Guys are a little older, a little more experienced than they were last year, and I think that's only gonna help us in this tournament."
Mikey Morris, last Saturday's walk-off hero against Makoti, leads the Cyclones with a .426 batting average. With nine extra-base hits this summer, along with a team-high 52 hits, he's the only Beulah player batting over .400.
Devin Sardelli boasts Beulah's second highest batting average (.387) while also registering his team's lead in RBIs (33).
After his grand slam on Sunday, Beulah outfielder Pat Becker is tied with Morris for first on the team in home runs (2). His 10 extra-base hits including two triples set the pace for Beulah.
Six Cyclones are batting over .300 this summer. Eight have tallied at least five extra-base hits.
"I wouldn't say we're overconfident, but it's definitely nice having the depth that we have," Sardelli said. "I think we're ready to make something happen (this weekend)."
Beulah takes on East Region No. 4 seed Valley City in the first game of the day, which begins at 11 a.m.
Makoti enters as the West Region's No. 2 seed and battles Cassleton at 5 p.m.
The Mavericks made an improbable run through the region tournament, winning each of their first three games including a 13-6 thrashing of Watford City on their way to a championship berth.
Their good fortune dried up in the end, but that isn't to suggest the Mavericks aren't ready to fire it up this weekend. They are.
"I'd like to see the kids come out and battle, hopefully win a few games and try to make something happen," Makoti coach Kyle Giesen said. "We're hoping to make some noise."
After conceding 26 runs over their final two region tournament games, Watford City enters this weekend as the West's No. 3 seed. The Walleye take on Grafton today at 2 p.m.
Velva's tournament begins with the sternest test of all. As the West Region's No. 4 seed, they take on East Region champion and tournament host Wahpeton, beginning at 8 p.m.
Joe Mellenbruch covers Legion baseball and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.