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Tom Miller / Forum Communications Co., Published June 30 2010

West Fargo splits Legion doubleheader against Grand Forks

GRAND FORKS – When the Grand Forks American Legion baseball team lost the opener of a doubleheader against West Fargo despite scoring four runs in the first inning and holding a two-run lead in the seventh inning, the Royals needed a lift to bounce back in the nightcap.

The turnaround came in the form of a Joey Conneran towering home run.

Conneran’s two-run shot to deep right field propelled Grand Forks to a 10-3 victory over West Fargo in the second game of the doubleheader on Tuesday night at Kraft Field. The Royals lost the first game 6-4 in eight innings.

“That was a big lift for us,” Grand Forks coach Gabe Dahl said of Conneran’s blast. “That got us going. After that loss in the first game, we needed someone to step up. Our older kids were able to do that.”

The Royals came out firing in the second game, scoring three runs in the first inning and five in the second.

All three first-inning runs for the Royals came with two outs. Ryne Anderson and David Nelson started the rally with a pair of singles before Conneran teed off.

“I was up in the count 3-1, and I knew he had to come down the plate,” said Conneran, who hit his first home run of the season. “I was looking for that pitch down the middle.”

Conneran had the big blast in Grand Forks’ 13-hit attack in Game 2. Taylor Steen and Anderson each chipped in two hits, while Nelson had three hits.

Nelson, who also scored twice and knocked in a pair of runs, picked up the pitching victory. He went all seven innings, allowing nine hits and three runs.

“We really hit the ball that second game,” Dahl said. “It was a tale of two games.”

The Royals couldn’t walk away from the field without feeling like they let a sweep slip away.

In the opener, Grand Forks scored four times in the first inning. Nelson, Brady Johnson, Steven Holtz and Mitchell Anderson each had hits in the inning for the Royals, who batted around in the inning.

The Royals struggled the rest of the way, however. Grand Forks was hampered by botched bunt situations in the seventh and eighth innings.

West Fargo surged back from the early deficit with two runs in the fifth, two more in the seventh and two more in the eighth.

In the seventh and eighth, the Patriots started the inning with walks. The game-tying run, with two outs in the top of the seventh, also scored on a wild pitch.

“In the games we’ve lost, we’ve struggled with giving up walks,” Dahl said. “West Fargo had big hits, but take away those walks . . . leadoff walks just score 70, 80 percent of the time.

“The only good thing is after that loss we were able to bounce back and hit the ball.”

WF 000 020 22– 6 9 2

GF 400 000 00– 4 9 1

W–Mapes. L–Koski.

WF 000 100 2– 6 9 2

GF 351 010 x–10 13 4

W–Nelson. L–Mapes. HR–GF, Conneran.

Tom Miller writes for the Grand Forks Herald