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As the regular season wound down, the Grand Forks Royals became a bit of a mystery team. The Royals appeared to be headed for an automatic berth in the North Dakota Class A American Legion baseball state tournament after sweeping Fargo and Williston in road doubleheaders recently. But, with a state tournament berth on the line, Grand Forks closed its regular season by dropping a doubleheader to visiting Mandan, which has a sub-.500 record in Class A state play. "That's what happens when you're a young team like we are,'' Royals coach Gabe Dahl said. "You're inconsistent.
GRAFTON -- The initial interest shown in American Legion baseball participation this spring was disappointing to Chad Kliniske. The Grafton coach anticipated as many as 30 players signing up to play. There was the possibility of fielding two Legion teams. Instead, there were only 11 players who committed to play. "I was terribly disappointed with the turnout,'' Kliniske said. "I wanted to play a lot of games. You can't do that with just 11 guys. It was kind of depressing for awhile.
Rejection wasn't easy at first for Rob Hunt. Success followed Hunt on the football field. Hunt was an all-state player at Cavalier (N.D.) High School. He was an All-America offensive lineman at North Dakota State University. But he was cut in his first National Football League training camp, by the Indianapolis Colts in 2005 after the team had drafted him in the fifth round of the college draft. "The first time you get cut, it's devastating," Hunt said. "It crushes your world. But you have to bounce up and keep going. You can't focus on the negatives. If you did, it would crush you.
Grafton is so hot that it's winning coin flips as well as games. Grafton, on the strength of a regular season-ending 15-game winning streak, pulled even with Langdon for the top spot in the final North Dakota Section 4 American Legion baseball standings. The tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed in the section tournament, which begins today at Kraft Field in Grand Forks, came down to a coin flip Tuesday night. And the 30-8 Grafton team won the flip. Grafton coach Chad Kliniske said the spark for his team's 15-game winning streak was a loss, a 10-9 setback at Munich, which is the No.
Gabe Dahl calls it one of the worst collisions he's seen in baseball. But it hasn't kept Alex Moe off the baseball diamond. After missing about five weeks due to head injuries, Moe returned to the lineup of the Grand Forks Royals American Legion baseball team Monday, getting two hits in a win against Devils Lake. "I didn't think we'd have him back for the rest of the year," said Dahl, the Royals coach. Moe opened the season with five hits in his first seven at-bats. But that fast start was derailed June 8.
A trip to the Shrine Hospital in the Twin Cities is an annual part of the experience of the North Dakota Shrine Bowl football players. This year's trip Wednesday may have been an eye-opener to some of Kolby Gruhot's teammates. But not to Gruhot. "When we got there, there were a couple of little kids walking around with big smiles on their faces," the Stephen-Argyle High School graduate said. "Even though they're disabled, those kids still enjoy life. "I hope it showed the guys that if they're having some problem, there is always something that could be worse.
Michael McAtee's summer job is coaching t-ball. But his employment as a coach of youth baseball players in Rolla has taken a back seat to another sport. This has been the summer of football for McAtee and Tommy Zinke, his fellow 2008 Rolla High School graduate. "I've probably only been there for t-ball about five times," McAtee said. "I've been concentrating on football. That's been the real job for the summer." The two will be in the backfield again today in the 4 p.m. 11-man game in the annual North Dakota Shrine Bowl at the Fargodome.
First, last or anywhere in between -- that's the scenario for the Grand Forks Royals as they enter the final 2½ weeks of their North Dakota Class A American Legion baseball regular-season schedule. The Royals currently are in third place with a 6-2 record in state standings, one game behind Minot and Dickinson. But Grand Forks still has 12 state conference games remaining, beginning today with a doubleheader at 1 p.m. against visiting Wahpeton and concluding July 26. "It's up for grabs,'' Royals coach Gabe Dahl said.
Seth Nichols and Tanner Carpenter admit that they kept an eye on each other's statistics during the 2007 North Dakota high school football season. "You're always shooting for the best," Carpenter said. "That pushes you to get better." Nichols at Dakota Prairie and Carpenter at North Border both played in North Dakota's 9-man Region 3. Both were first-team all-state selections. And now both are quarterbacks on the 9-man East squad for the annual North Dakota Shrine Bowl. The Shrine Bowl matches outstanding seniors from North Dakota and western Minnesota in 9- and 11-man football games.
Timing has made Kyle Nowacki an opposite-field hitter early this American Legion baseball season. Nowacki is coming off a freshman baseball season at Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls in which he was an all-region pick as a pitcher-third baseman. But he's had some adjustments to make in his return to Warroad for his final season of Legion eligibility. "In college, you usually see somebody throwing at least 80 miles an hour," Nowacki said. "Now you see guys in the 70s. "It was tough (to adjust). I can't stand it.