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LEGION BASEBALL: Royals split with Moorhead Monday

As day turned to night Monday at Kraft Field, the play of the Grand Forks Royals and Moorhead Blues shifted in a similar fashion — in large part due to the pitching of Grand Forks pitcher Kaleb Binstock.

The Blues routed the Royals 15-3 in the first game of a doubleheader, exploding for 17 hits. In the second game, Binstock was just two outs away from a no-hitter as Grand Forks won 2-1 to earn the split.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen a doubleheader with two sides of the coin so extreme as I saw today,” Royals coach Nick Chine said. “No matter what we threw at them and who we threw at them… they found gaps, hit it over the fence. We couldn’t get them out.

“They were on fire. I don’t think, no matter who we pitched, we were going to be able to get outs.”

In the first inning of the first game, Moorhead’s Eli Johnson drove in Preston Kraiter to start the scoring outburst — his first hit of a 5-for-5, four-RBI and two-run performance.

The majority of the Blues runs came in the third and fourth innings, when they scored nine combined, highlighted by a Kraiter double that drove in three.

“That was one of those games where it’s fun to play,” Moorhead coach Bryant Bergeson said. “Hitting was kind of contagious. It started off right away, our lead-off had a good approach and hit a double to the right-center gap. Our two-hitter had a nice shot to the right-center gap and everything kind of steam-rolled from there.”

A Jared Benson solo home run in the fifth put the exclamation point on Moorhead’s win, which was called after the bottom of the fifth due to the ten-run rule.

After not allowing a hit through 6Z\c innings to start the second game, Binstock was a double-play away from throwing a two-walk no-hitter. After Binstock hit Moorhead’s Mike Wiesmann with a pitch, Drew Anderson hit what looked like a double-play ball to short.

But a Royals error allowed both runners to reach base safely. Tyler Oberg followed with a double to left to drive in Wiesmann and break up the no-hitter.

“Come back the second game and Binstock throws a gem,” said Chine. “He pitched a great game. He did probably more than what you expect your starting pitcher to do. And he’s been doing that consistently for us all year, and that’s big for us at this point in time because we need consistency.”

A Kaden Monette single in the second drove in Chaise Anderson and Brandon Walters to give Binstock a 2-0 lead.

The Wiesmann run brought the Blues within a run, but Binstock retired the next two batters on a strikeout and ground-out.

“We didn’t really adjust after the first inning, the second or the third,” said Bergeson. “We finally hit a few balls hard in the seventh inning but by then it was a little bit too late.”

Binstock finished the game with four strikeouts, allowing one hit and a run.

Chine said, despite the rough first game, he is impressed with his team’s progress this season.

“Other than that first game, we’ve been progressing,” Chine added. “That’s all you can ever ask for from your players. Each game from the start up until now, we have gotten a little better in all aspects of the game. And we need it all to come together, obviously, for the state tournament.”