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Aaron Saunders, Published July 23 2012

Grand Forks Royals rally for doubleheader split with Fargo Post 2

FARGO – Runs were rare for the better part of two American Legion baseball games at Jack Williams Stadium Monday night.

But when they came, they did so in bunches.

“The difference is we scored early in the second game and we didn’t score until the bottom of the sixth in the first one,” said Fargo Post 2 head coach Luke Rustad, whose team split the doubleheader with the Grand Forks Royals by scores of 3-0 and 4-2, respectively.

In Game 1, Post 2 rode on the back of pitching ace Nick Salentine, who breezed through seven innings, only throwing 80 pitches while allowing three hits.

“I got ahead right away,” said Salentine, who is headed to Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. “Sometimes I get ahead with my off-speed (pitches), so it helps. They helped me with swinging at some bad pitches, but that’s what happens when you mix it up a lot and get ahead.

“I didn’t strike too many guys out, but when you trust your defense, it’s pretty easy to pitch.”

Despite losing Game 2, the Fargo squad received a standout performance from pitcher Justin Beach, who normally throws out of the bullpen.

“I’m definitely disappointed, but there is not much you can do. They hit the ball around towards the end,” said Beach, who went 5Zc innings, only allowing one run. “I’ve been usually our first reliever off the bench this year, so I have mainly been coming on for two or three innings. I’ve been getting into games, I just haven’t been going deep. I just didn’t have the gas tonight.”

Rustad was pleased with both of his starting pitchers’ performance against the Royals.

“Nick threw a great game,” said Rustad. “I think he finished with around 80 pitches and was efficient in the strike zone. His mix was great and he was using his off-speed stuff to keep those hitters off balance.

“Justin is not an overpowering pitcher, but he’s got great stuff. He’s got good off-speed stuff and he hits his spots usually.”

Rustad’s Post 2 squad could not muster any runs for the first five innings of the day. The team broke out of the rut with a two-run double by center fielder Matt Schalow that gave them the lead for good in Game 1.

Fargo’s late inning hot streak continued into Game 2 as it jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning, but would not score again in the game.

“In the second game, we got out in front 2-0 and had a chance for a 3-0 lead and we just didn’t pick up any timely hits,” Rustad said. “I mean, their kid, he pitched well. He kept the ball in the strike zone and just basically told us, ‘I dare you to beat me,’ and we didn’t step up and get the job done at the plate.”

With a one-run lead in the top of the seventh of Game 2, Post 2 seemed to be cruising to a sweep over the Royals, but a two-run double hit by shortstop Gage Salquist put the Royals on top. A solo home run by Taylor Steen ended all hopes Post 2 had of winning.

After the split, both teams sit on top of their respective divisions.

“The win keeps us in the hunt for the first seed,” Beach said. “That’s what we have been looking for this whole season, getting into the postseason, so you can’t complain about it.”

GF 000 000 0–0 3 2

F 000 003 x–3 4 1

Dufault and Steen. N. Salentine and Hallock. W–N. Salentine L–Dufault.

GF 000 010 3–4 7 0

F 200 000 0–2 6 1

Kemnitz and Steen. Beach and Hallock. W–Kemnitz. L–Giffey HR- GF, Steen

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Aaron Saunders at (701) 451-5549