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LEGION BASEBALL: Grand Forks Blues work on finishing games

Strong starts have been an early season trait for the Grand Forks Blues. Finishing is something the Blues are working to improve.

The Blues took a 7-5 record into Wednesday’s game against the East Grand Forks VFW. In several of those losses, GF coach Matt Palmiscno said, his team led late in the game.

“We’ve played well,’’ said Palmiscno, whose team hosts the annual Robert Montgomery Memorial tournament this weekend. “We just have to figure out how to finish better.

“We score early, but then we’ve sat back and not built on that in some games. Walks and errors have killed us in some games. And it’s a learning process. We are young.’’

Young, but very experienced for a Blues team, which consists primarily of American Legion players ages 16 and younger.

The lineup includes four players who started as freshmen on this spring’s Grand Forks Central High School team that was runner-up in the Class A state tournament. That quartet — pitcher-outfielder Brock Reller, third baseman Nick Lund, outfielder Noah Cieklinski and first baseman-catcher Rakeem Wright — “is a good core group for us,’’ Palmiscno said.

Reller, Brock Montgomery and Baden Ripplinger head the pitching. “We have a sub-2.50 team earned run average,’’ Palmiscno said. “Our pitching has been good. And we’re hitting the ball. It just comes down to making plays at the end of games.’’

The Blues’ potential has been shown in a pair of doubleheader splits against perennial power Grafton, which placed third at the Class B state high school baseball tournament this spring.

Palmiscno looks for his team to be in title contention at the Montgomery tournament, which runs Friday through Sunday. But he doesn’t point to the Blues as the favorite; there may not be one.

“It’s up in the air,’’ Palmiscno said. “I think we can be up there. Grafton has played us tough. West Fargo is good. You know the Canadian team will be good. There are a lot of good teams in it.’’

EGF Classic off

While the Robert Montgomery Memorial tournament is held this weekend, the annual East Grand Forks Classic Legion baseball tournament won’t be played this summer.

Timing was the issue for first-year EGF coach Garret Hjelle.

“I took the program about a month ago,” Hjelle said. “I didn’t have time to do anything on the tournament and, apparently, nothing had been set up.”

Hjelle said he expects this to be a one-year hiatus for the tournament.

“I’ve talked to coaches,” he said. “We plan to get it going again next year. It’s disappointing (not hosting the tournament); you always want teams coming to your town.

“But, with our schedule, it also would be tough on the kids. It’s a weekend when they’ll get a bit of a breather this year.”

Dangerous dugouts

Twice during Monday’s doubleheader at Kraft Field between the Grand Forks Royals and visiting West Fargo, players in the dugouts were hit by foul balls off the bats of teammates.

In the opening game, West Fargo’s Chase Gooding was hit in the Adam’s apple when Austin Gilbertson hit a liner into the third-base dugout. Gooding was taken by ambulance to Altru Hospital.

“He may have some small fracture,’’ West Fargo coach Bill Ibach said Tuesday night. “He’s not talking too well, but he seems to be OK.’’

In the second game, Grand Forks catcher Kalen Binstock was knocked to the ground when he was hit in the back by a foul hit into the first-base dugout by Jordan Lunski. Binstock was momentarily shaken up, but continued to play.

Both dugouts have screens in front of them.

“You don’t see that happen too often,’’ Ibach said of two players being hit in dugouts in a doubleheader. “It was a freak thing. Those dugouts are as safe as you can get.’’