Editor's note: In this series, the Grand Forks Herald's veteran sports staff ranks their top five memorable moments. Herald sports reporter Greg DeVillers continues his list with this No. 1 memorable moment.
Ten innings wasn’t enough for Aaron Marsden.
Marsden threw a 10-inning complete game to get the Grand Forks Royals into the championship game in the 1999 North Dakota Class A American Legion baseball tournament.
The day on the mound wasn't done for the left-hander. Marsden was called on to get one more out and clinch Grand Forks' first American Legion state title in 27 years.
The Royals came through the loser-out bracket to win four straight games, two of them on the tournament's final day. A 10-9 win over Minot in the championship ended a title drought that dated back to 1972. Personal note: My son, Brian, played on the '99 championship team.
Kraft Field had more fans in the stands on that Sunday afternoon than I'd ever seen at a Legion baseball game in Grand Forks. The Royals didn't disappoint.
Grand Forks stayed alive with a 2-1 loser-out win in 10 innings against Mandan. Marsden went the distance, striking out 15 and allowing just one unearned run.
In the championship, Grand Forks was clinging to a 10-9 lead entering the bottom of the seventh inning. Royals pitcher Scott Miedema recorded the first two outs of the inning. But with powerful Minot left-handed hitter Luke Teagle coming to the plate, Royals coach Brent Polum brought Marsden in to get a final out.
“He (Polum) gave me the choice, whether I wanted to pitch to (Teagle),’’ Miedema said. “Aaron had done well against him during the year. I said he should do what was best for the team. Personal stuff didn’t mean a thing if we don’t win the big game.
“Our only goal was to win the state.’’
Marsden didn’t win the lefty-vs.-lefty matching, hitting Teagle with his third pitch. But Marsden struck out Minot clean-up hitter Casey Olson on three pitches for the save, the win and Grand Forks’ first state championship since 1972.
Marsden leaped off the mound, raising both arms high in the air after getting the final out as his teammates stormed the pitching mound.
“Scott got the big hit when we needed it,’’ Polum said. “And for Aaron to battle back the way he did on two days’ rest was amazing.’’
The championship was a close, see-saw battle. The lead changed hands four times.
Grand Forks took a 9-7 in the top of the sixth on a Tom Bakke 2-run home run, only to see Minot tie the game in the bottom of the inning on a Chad Thompson double.
In the seventh, DeVillers led off with a single and advanced to third on a Tony Stinar sacrifice bunt and a ground out. Miedema drilled an opposite-field single to right field to drive in what proved to be the game-winning run and set up Marsden’s late heroics.
DeVillers also scored the winning run against Mandan. He led off the top of the 10th with a single and was sacrificed to second by Stinar. DeVillers stole third and when the throw bounced into left field, he continued home to score and break a 1-1 tie.
Miedema was named most valuable player in the tournament. DeVillers and Bakke joined him on the all-tournament team.
The Royals’ season ended in the Central Plains Regional, where they went 1-2.
“We’re not disappointed,’’ Stinar said after the regional. “Our goal always was to win state, to get here. Obviously, we wanted to win some here (at the regional). But state was the big thing.’’