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Aaron Saunders, Published July 19 2012

Patriots pick off Vistas, WF sweeps Legion doubleheader from Minot

WEST FARGO – A bean ball episode broke out in the first game of an American Legion baseball doubleheader between Minot and West Fargo on Thursday.

The two games did not count in the league standings, but West Fargo’s head coach said it sure felt like they did.

The West Fargo Patriots swept the doubleheader, defeating the Vistas 8-7 and 4-2.

“We play them at Minot next week, and those count, so yeah. These were just games, but they felt like they counted,” West Fargo head coach Bill Ibach said. “To me, they all count. I try to tell our kids that early on in the year, whether it’s league standings or not, we want to win and we want to play well.”

In the opener, West Fargo pitcher Zac Steckler plunked two Minot batters. Then when Steckler stepped into the batter’s box, he drew a pitch behind his back.

“That’s just the game within the game,” Ibach said. “I like the fact that there wasn’t too much talking back and forth because you’re going to have people sliding into each other and getting hit by pitches. I think that’s part of the game as long as it doesn’t get ugly.”

The chippy play did not bother Game 2 pitcher Landon Uetz either.

“I actually got beaned in the first game,” Uetz said. “I was the last one to get hit, but you have to shake it off and move on, play and not let that carry over into the next game and the next time we play them.”

Once he touched the mound, Uetz did not seem the least bit affected. He went on to hurl six innings, giving up only two runs on seven hits.

“We had good defense behind the pitchers,” he said. “And it’s been like that all year, so I was just trying to throw strikes trying to hit the bat with the ball and let the defense do their jobs.”

The Patriots defense was flawless, committing no errors in the two games.

“When we are playing our best baseball, our defense is right on key, which it was tonight,” Uetz said. “When you’re pitching and your defense doesn’t have any errors behind you it kind of gives you an extra confidence booster.”

Next Thursday, the Patriots (9-3 in North Dakota) take on the Vistas (6-6 ND) in a game that is vital to league standings. But after Thursday night’s sweep, the Patriots may already have the psychological edge.

“It’s good to see that we came out and beat them both times,” said West Fargo infielder Tanner Dahl, who had three hits in Game 1. “It kind of says that we are the better team. We come out and play them next week for the conference games that do count, and we already beat them twice, so we know we can beat them again.”

M 201 003 1–7 6 1

WF 213 200 x–8 7 0

Klassen and Larson. Steckler and Bucholz. W–Steckler. L–Klassen. HR–M, Oothoudt, Holmen.

M 000 011 0–2 7 3

WF 210 100 x–4 8 0

Berntson and Klassen. Uetz and Bucholz. W–Uetz. L–Berntson.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Aaron Saunders at (701) 241-5549