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Chris Murphy, Published August 02 2013

Ten-run 5th innings helps West Fargo fend off Wahpeton

WEST FARGO – The defending champs were due. After scoring one run in their previous 13 innings and five innings away from elimination, the champs showed up.

The Class A American Legion defending state champion and top-seeded West Fargo squad plated 10 runs in the top of the fifth inning to turn a four-run deficit into a six-run lead en route to a 16-7 win over Wahpeton on Friday.

“It’s what I look for in this team,” West Fargo coach Bill Ibach said. “We are capable of catching fire. We haven’t done it consistently, but we try to hang in there in the game and hope it does.”

West Fargo had four errors in the first two innings versus Fargo Post 2 Thursday that led to four runs and an eventual 8-1 loss to end up facing elimination Friday. It was déjà vu all over again Friday, as the Patriots had two costly errors in the first inning against Wahpeton to spot Post 20 a 2-0 lead.

Alex Lunneborg led off the inning reaching on an error. After a sacrifice bunt he moved him to second, he was tagged out at third on a fielder’s choice. A walk to Cole Gilles and a passed ball, however, put runners on second and third and Kelly Carney ripped a two-out single to score Tyler Gripentrog. An inning that should have been over turned into a Wahpeton lead. Then it turned even uglier as Gilles would score when the next routine ground ball was bobbled to make it 2-0.

After two runs scored on a Gripentrog single made it 4-0 after two innings, the Patriots went hitless the next two innings and Post 20 was rolling.

“We were feeling a little bit like it was the last game,” Ibach said. “We were preaching that it was a nine-inning game. We told them that the game can turn. It didn’t last night, but it sure did tonight.”

Then West Fargo (37-17) went off. Fifteen batters, nine hits, three walks and 10 runs later and the Patriots were in full control after the top of the fifth. Luke Johnson and Devin Wagenman each had RBI singles and Andy Young drove in two with a double to tie it up at 4-4. Landon Uetz scored two on a single to make it 6-4, Uetz and Camran Bonnema each scored on wild pitches to make it 8-4 and Ben Bruenjes and Jordan Rheault each had RBI singles to make it 10-4.

“It started off like the Fargo game, but then we realized this could be our last game and, for some of us, our last high school game, so we battled,” Uetz said. “It just shows that we feed off each other. Hitting is contagious for us.”

The Patriots will try to once again stave off elimination, facing Dickinson today at noon and the loser of Fargo Post 2 and Bismarck at 6 p.m. to get to the championship if they get by Dickinson.

West Fargo 000 0(10)1 230–16 15 3

Wahpeton 220 001 020–7 14 3

Wolden, Paper (7) and Bruenjes. Gripentrog, Mennis (5), Karney (7), Gilles (9) and Lunneborg. W–Wolden. L–Gripentrog.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548