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Central grabs another title

The Grand Forks Central baseball team opened their 2007 season in the same way they finished their 2006 campaign - with a tournament championship. The defending North Dakota Class A state champions used a Mik Poger sacrifice fly in the bottom of ...

The Grand Forks Central baseball team opened their 2007 season in the same way they finished their 2006 campaign - with a tournament championship.

The defending North Dakota Class A state champions used a Mik Poger sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning to sneak past St. Thomas-Drayton-Valley 6-5 on Saturday in the championship game of the Sacred Heart Invitational at Stauss Park.

The Knights pulled out the victory even though all eight of their hits came in the first four innings.

In the seventh, Central center fielder Joel Riopelle led off the inning with a four-pitch walk. On the next offering, Alex Moe was hit by a pitch. Then, St. Thomas-D-V pitcher Marcus Kennelly intentionally walked Alex Kreis to load the bases.

On the first pitch to Poger, he flew out to right field. The fly ball was deep enough for Riopelle to tag up easily and score the winning run.

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"Obviously, this gives the team some good confidence," said Riopelle, who reached base all four times he batted, scored three runs and made a spectacular diving catch in the fifth inning to prevent A.J. Sanchez from an extra-base hit. "It was great to play in a close game. This is a nice way to start the season."

The Knights played their first three games of the season at the tournament, while St. Thomas-D-V moved to 6-3 this year.

In the top of the seventh, Central had to wiggle out of a jam. The Blue Knights' Ryan Tucker walked, Brandon Keena was hit by a pitch, Sanchez grounded into a fielder's choice and John Rowell reached safely on an infield single to load the bases with two outs.

Central winning pitcher Beau Saiers worked the count full on Marcus Tucker, who lined out to Central first baseman Curran Gause to stop the threat.

"The kids battled," Central coach Bill Lorenz said. "We stayed focused and kept competing."

The Knights needed Saiers to get them out of a jam earlier in the game, too. In the second inning, Central starter Adam Marynik surrendered two runs and had the bases loaded with nobody out.

Saiers came in, walked one batter but retired the next three he faced to limit the damage.

Kennelly and Bryan Olson were both 1-for-2 to lead St. Thomas-D-V hitters.

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"I'm nothing but proud of our kids," St. Thomas-D-V coach Dave Hanson said. "I was very pleased with the way we played. Central just really hit the ball well."

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