No Idaho baseball team has ever won an American Legion World Series championship — until now.
The Idaho Falls Bandits beat Fargo, N.D., 5-3 in the championship game of the Double-A Legion national tournament Wednesday morning, etching its name into the history books during the 93rd Legion World Series.
“It’s just big to do it for our state,” second baseman Bruer Webster said in a postgame interview with the American Legion. “Nobody believes in Idaho ... But we stuck together and brought it home for our state.”
Idaho Falls (61-6-1) rolled through the national tournament undefeated at 5-0, even surviving a host of rainstorms rolling through Shelby, N.C. Nick Layland’s walk-off infield single in the semifinals Monday put the Bandits in the title game after two days of rain delays. Then more rain forced organizers to postpone Tuesday’s championship after one inning.
The delay cost Idaho Falls its ace pitcher in the championship. Randon Hostert, who was drafted by the Texas Rangers in June and threw two no-hitters in the Northwest regional tournament, had already thrown 32 pitches in one inning Tuesday. A pitch count kept him from pitching again Wednesday.
But that didn’t slow the Bandits, who turned to lefty Andrew Gregersen to shut down Fargo (54-8). The center fielder-turned-pitcher limited Fargo to one run on five hits through six innings before his teammates dogpiled on top of him after the final out.
“It’s unbelievable,” Hostert said. “I’ve been playing with these guys since I was 8 years old. This was never really a goal because it wasn’t ever set in our mind that this was possible for us. Now that it’s here, it’s super surreal and I couldn’t ask for a better way to go out.”
Fargo jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. But Idaho Falls wasted no time rallying, pushing three runs across in the bottom of the second inning after Wednesday’s restart, thanks to an RBI single from Alex Cortez and a two-run single from Tavyn Lords.
Gregersen never surrendered the lead the rest of the way.
Idaho Falls is the third straight Idaho team to qualify for the Legion World Series. Mountain View made last year’s tournament and Lewiston qualified in 2017.
The best finish for an Idaho team prior to Wednesday was a pair of second-place finishes from Lewiston in 2001 and Pocatello in 1926, during the first Legion World Series.
Bandits coach Ryan Alexander leads a team of players from all five Idaho Falls high schools. After nearly 15,000 miles of travel this summer, he said the national title proves that high-level baseball is played inside Idaho, despite outside impressions.
“We’ve got great coaches at all levels,” Alexander said in a phone interview with the Idaho Statesman. “Between 3A, 4A, 5A, there are some really good baseball people here. There has been a lot of talent come out of Idaho.
“It legitimizes the work doing they’re doing at Mountain View, at Vallivue and at Capital, or from our side of the state at Bonneville and (Idaho Falls). It legitimizes us to the baseball community than we can coach and play a little bit.”