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Glenn Pursley, Published August 03 2013

Grafton tops Hatton for berth in ND Class B state Legion title game

BEULAH, N.D. – Grafton already proved it hasn’t needed any help making a deep run in the North Dakota, Class B American Legion state baseball tournament, but a hand from Hatton helped it earn a trip to the championship game with a win on Saturday.

Grafton scored five unearned runs thanks to five Hatton errors and starting pitcher Sam Heuchert stranded 13 runners to help his team win 8-1 and play for its second consecutive title today.

Heuchert struck out five batters and drove in a run in the sixth inning. Garek Droog had an RBI single in the first to set the pace.

Grafton will play Cando at 1 p.m. for the second time this tournament and if they lose, they will play a second championship game at 3:30 p.m.

“My defense is amazing and I’m glad I have them behind me,” Heuchert said. “The thing I could throw really well today was my fastball and my splitter … it went extremely well”

Hatton’s first big opportunity came in the third inning with one out and runners on first and second. Michael Paulson ripped a line drive toward first base, but Droog was able to make the grab over his shoulder and quickly tagged first for the double play.

“Overall, it just helps our whole team,” Droog said. “It gives our pitcher confidence and our whole team confidence so we can make those plays.”

Zak Hernandez came into relieve Heuchert in the sixth with runners on second and third, Hernandez got Paulson to fly out on the first pitch to end the threat.

Droog’s single in the first scored Austin Markel and Droog would score on Hatton’s first error of the game to go up 2-0. They tacked on three in the fourth thanks to one Hatton error and scored two in the fifth off of two errors.

“It feels great to get off that little slump there, but I just got to do whatever it takes to get on base and help my team score runs,” said Droog.

Droog started the tournament off with a home run against Enderlin on Wednesday, but hasn’t had one since then.

“We made the plays when we had to,” Grafton head coach Chad Kliniske said. “Sam came out and set the tone and he needed that. Although the scoreboard shows a seven-run lead, it doesn’t feel like that, it felt tighter the whole game.”

Grafton’s opponent was set in stone earlier Saturday thanks to some late-game heroics from Cando.

Brooks Larson hit a three-run home in the second inning and Steven Hunt’s RBI single in the fifth capped a three-run inning that lifted Cando to a 6-3 win and eliminate LaMoure from the tournament.

Larson finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs and starting pitcher Jacob Hagler added a double and drove in a run. Hunt had two hits.

Leading LaMoure was Brady Thielges with two hits and Jared Meiklejohn, who added a double.

G 000 100 0– 8 5 5

H 200 321 x– 1 6 2

Olson and Sherva. Heuchert, Fritz (6), Hernandez (6) and Thompson. W–Heuchert. L–Olson.

Cando 6, LaMoure 3

L 201 000 0– 3 6 1

C 030 030 x– 6 10 4

B. Thielges and T. Thielges. Hagler and Schill. W–Hagler. L–Schill.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Glenn Pursley at (701) 241-5549