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Tom Miller / Forum Communications Co., Published July 17 2012

Patriots, Grand Forks split Legion doubleheader

GRAND FORKS – The Grand Forks Royals and West Fargo Patriots American Legion baseball teams came to Kraft Field on Tuesday tied for first place in the state standings.

One doubleheader and 18 innings later, the logjam at the top of the league still isn’t settled.

The Royals and Patriots split the two games with West Fargo taking the opener 7-5 in 11 innings and Grand Forks winning the nightcap 3-2 in the standard seven innings.

“I didn’t expect anything less than tight games,” Grand Forks coach Nick Chine said.

And that’s what the Royals received, although the two games were vastly different.

West Fargo (26-12) won the long opener by wiggling out of a number of jams after the Royals sent it to extra innings with a pair of runs in the seventh inning, while Grand Forks took the second game in speedy fashion thanks to a strong pitching performance from left-hander Blake Kemnitz.

The Royals and Patriots are both 9-3 now in the state standings. However, Bismarck and Fargo aren’t far back and have played fewer games. The Governors are 6-1, while Post 2 is 5-1.

“Every win is big for us,” West Fargo coach Bill Ibach said. “It’s just good to beat a good team and Grand Forks is a good team.”

The Patriots looked to have Game 1 sealed up when they took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning and picked up the first two outs while keeping the Royals off the scoreboard.

But Grand Forks forced extra innings when pinch-hitter Chaise Anderson doubled to right field to score Taylor Steen and Nick Moe, who scored just before the tag of West Fargo catcher Tucker Buchholz.

However, then it was the Royals’ turn to squander what appeared to be a sure victory. Grand Forks loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth inning.

West Fargo turned to reliever Camran Bonnema, who came in for starting pitcher Tanner Dahl, the Patriots’ ace who had gone the previous seven innings. Bonnema induced back-to-back light ground balls to third base, which turned into force outs at home plate.

Bonnema then got Grand Forks right fielder Jordan Lunski to fly out to center field to end the threat.

“It was a fun game, even though your heart was in your throat,” Ibach said. “Our guys stepped up and performed. Both teams did really. (Grand Forks) got some big hits, too, but our guys came through in the 11th.”

The Patriots finally put away Game 1 with a pair of runs in the 11th, keyed by a two-out run-scoring triple from shortstop Andy Young.

After the Royals couldn’t muster a run in the eighth, they also put two on with no one out in the 10th. But that rally also sputtered.

“We had our chances, but West Fargo didn’t crack,” Chine said. “All we needed was a fly out when we had the bases loaded. We didn’t get it. You have to tip your hat. (The Patriots) were under a lot of pressure, but they worked their way out of it every time.”

The Royals, however, didn’t let any Game 1 disappointment linger into the second game. Grand Forks scored three runs in the first two innings, which proved to be enough as Kemnitz scattered seven hits.

WF 002 020 100 02–7 12 0

GF 012 000 200 00–5 13 1

WP – Bonnema. (5-1) LP–Palmiscno. HR- GF, Moe.

WF 000 100 1–2 7 0

GF 210 000 x–3 8 1

WP – Kemnizt. LP–Young (3-3).

Miller writes for the Grand Forks Herald