The Idaho Falls Bandits made history Wednesday morning, becoming the first team from Idaho to win the American Legion World Series.
Bandits coach Ryan Alexander likes to check off goals, but the biggest check mark came Wednesday as his team, playing in its first World Series, went unbeaten in the national tournament at Shelby, N.C., and defeated Fargo, North Dakota 5-3 in the championship game.
District title: check.
State title: check.
Regional title: check.
World Series title: bigger check.
“It's unbelievable,” Bandits second baseman Bruer Webster said in a press release. Webster fielded the final out and threw to first baseman Randon Hostert to start the celebration. “We did it for our state … I love the state of Idaho.”
Webster said the final play seemed like it was in slow motion, but he was able to field the ball cleanly.
“It was crazy,” he said.
With numerous rain delays, the tournament itself was a bit crazy, but Alexander said the team has been focused all season and continued to rely on its depth and its pitching staff.
With Tuesday’s championship game suspended due to rain, Idaho Falls and Fargo met up Wednesday morning with North Dakota holding a 2-1 lead in the second inning.
The Bandits wasted no time, scoring three runs in the bottom of the second, highlighted by an RBI single by Alex Cortez and a two-run single by Tavyn Lords. A sacrifice fly by Nick Layland in the third staked Idaho Falls to a 5-2 lead.
Bandits’ ace Randon Hostert, who tossed back-to-back no-hitters in the regional tournament, was unable to pitch Wednesday after throwing more than 30 pitches Tuesday. The Bandits, who have benefited from a deep pitching staff all season, started lefty Andrew Gregersen and he kept the Fargo hitters off balance.
Gregersen got out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, getting a popout to end the inning. North Dakota threatened in the seventh, putting two runners on base, but Gregersen got the groundout to Webster to end the game.
“We had one box left to check and that was to win at Shelby,” Alexander said by phone. “We felt with the squad that we had and the depth that we possessed, it gave us a legitimate chance to come to Shelby for the first time and be the first Idaho team in history to win a World Series.”
The Bandits finished the season a program-best 61-6-1.
Gregersen earned the win, striking out six in six innings and allowing just one run. He said he was surprised to hear his name called to pitch, “But I knew that everyone would have my back behind me," he said.
This was the third straight year that Idaho sent a team to the American Legion World Series and ninth overall. Only two of the other eight teams made the title game. Pocatello lost 23-6 in the first World Series in 1926 against Yonkers, N.Y., and Lewiston lost a 5-2 decision to Brooklawn, N.J., in 2001.
“Making history with this group of guys is just amazing,” said Hostert, who earned the Bob Feller Pitching Award. “I couldn't ask for a better team.”
The Bandits are made up of players from Idaho Falls High, Bonneville, Skyline, Hillcrest and Thunder Ridge. Alexander noted the importance of the community dynamic.
“It proves that Idaho Falls has good baseball,” he said. “There are a lot of kids that the city develops that love to play … It proves a town like Idaho Falls, when you come together and play for something bigger than yourself and come together as a community, then really good things happen that are positive for the community and good for families and the boys. At the end of the day you come together and it becomes historic.”
IDAHO FALLS 5, FARGO 3
Fargo 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 –3 8 2
IF 1 3 1 0 0 0 x –5 8 3
FARGO – Pitchers: Blake Anderson 1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 K, 0 BB; Colton Frey 1.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 K, 3 BB; Andrew Linn 3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 K, 2 BB. Leading hitters: Cole Hage 3-4, Brandt Kolpack 2-4. RBI: Brayden Koenig, Kolpack 2.
BANDITS – Pitchers: Randon Hostert 1.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 K, 0 BB; Andrew Gregersen 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 6 K, 3 BB. Leading hitters: Alex Cortez 2-3. 2B: Jaxon Sorenson. RBI: Tavyn Lords 2, Cortez, Hostert, Layland.