WAHPETON - Armed with a five-run lead before he even took the mound, Valley City starting pitcher Jesse Johnson was charged with preserving the advantage.
Johnson shined in Valley City's 7-4 win over Watford City on Thursday during the second round of the Class A American Legion baseball state tournament at John Randall Field.
"Seeing that five-run cushion was nice," said Johnson, who recorded eight strikeouts in the complete-game victory. "It allowed me to get comfortable early in the game and just throw strikes. (Watford City) is a good hitting team and I knew I wasn't going to hold them to nothing. I just had to keep the damage to a minimum."
Carrie Snyder/Fargo Forum
Valley City's Jesse Johnson (26) beats the tag from Watford City's Brandon Allex during the Class A American Legion baseball state tournament in Wahpeton on Thursday.
Valley City sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning with Ben Baasch and Spencer Meyer each connecting for RBI singles.
"When you give a five-run lead to Jesse Johnson he is going to do some good things," Valley City coach Kyle Roelfsema said. "He kept us in the game, and the boys made some great plays behind him."
Valley City's lead ballooned to 7-0 in the top of the fourth inning when Jacob Miller connected for an RBI double that scored Dalton Ondracek. Chase Carpenter added an RBI single that scored Miller later in the inning.
Valley City advances to play Wahpeton at 7 p.m. today. Matched with its win against Beulah on Wednesday, Thursday's victory marked the first time Valley City has won back-to-back games this season.
"We are starting to hit our stride," Roelfsema said. "We knew all along that we had the tools to be a good team, but it was just a matter of putting it all together and I think we are doing that."
Johnson retired the first nine batters he faced before Watford City's Dakota Neether led off the fourth inning with a single.
The Walleye scored two runs in the fourth, getting a two-run single off the bat of first baseman Andrew Sampsel. Johnson got Mitchell Liebel to ground into a double play to end the rally.
"We had opportunities with runners on base and our big guys up, but we didn't cash in," Watford City head coach Patrick Spacher said. "(Johnson) made some good pitches to get some outs."
Watford City added a run in the fifth inning, but left the bases loaded when Johnson got slugger Trent Grimes to fly out to centerfield.
Watford City plays Velva in an elimination game at 4 p.m.
"We've played Velva five times this year and every one of those games was pretty close," Spacher said. "We'll have to put the ball in play and avoid allowing Velva a big inning."