After slow start, EGF pitcher finds groove

First innings have been a struggle for Kevin Hatcher. Slow starts, however, haven't hurt the end results. The East Grand Forks American Legion baseball team took a 4-9 record into Wednesday night's game against Thompson. But Hatcher has put up do...

First innings have been a struggle for Kevin Hatcher. Slow starts, however, haven't hurt the end results.

The East Grand Forks American Legion baseball team took a 4-9 record into Wednesday night's game against Thompson. But Hatcher has put up dominant numbers.

In three starts, the 18-year-old has a 2-0 record; in his third start, he had a no decision, pitching eight innings before being relieved with the scored tied 3-3 in a game his team eventually won 4-3 in 10 innings. Hatcher has a 2.80 earned-run average, striking out 23 in 20 innings.

"Kevin always seems to struggle in the first inning, then he settles down and breezes by," EGF coach Kevin Nunn said.

Hatcher has allowed just seven runs this season, all of them coming in the first inning of the games he's pitched.


"Every time he goes out, we feel like he'll keep us in the game," Nunn said. "He has a pattern. You're not concerned (about the first inning) because you know that when he gets through it, he'll start to dominate."

Nunn said Hatcher has worked at different ways of pregame preparation and warm-ups to get through the opening inning with better results.

"He's 6-6 with a long reach," Nunn said. "When Kevin steps out of his windup and delivers, he's on top of the batter. And there aren't a lot of left-handers around, which helps him.

"He's got decent stuff. His speed is probably in the low 80s (mph), and he's got a good curve, with pretty good action on his stuff."

Royals end home run drought

Joey Conneran's home run that sparked Grand Forks to a 10-3 American Legion win against West Fargo on Tuesday was a Royals rarity.

The home run was only the third hit by the 9-6 Royals this season. It was the first homer since David Nelson hit one at Dickinson in Grand Forks' third game of the summer. Mick Koski also has a home run, hit in the season-opening doubleheader against East Grand Forks.

"It's not a surprise -- we figured we wouldn't be a team that hits a lot of home runs," Royals coach Gabe Dahl said. "It was the same sort of thing last year, and we have most of the same guys back. We don't have many big boppers in the lineup, the guys who can hit the ball out of the park consistently."


The Royals did lose some opportunities, as the team had five games rained out in June.

But the nature of the team is consistency, not long blasts.

While Grand Forks has only 29 extra-base hits in 15 games, the Royals bat .322 as a team and average 6.5 runs a game. Taylor Steen (.444, 10 RBI), Conneran (.423, team-leading 11 RBI), Jake LaDouceur (.397, 10 RBI), Nelson (.366, 9 RBI), Koski (.364), and Ryne Anderson (.326) all are hitting better than .300.

"Obviously, you'd like to have the big home-run hitter," Dahl said. "We have to have everybody in the lineup doing his job consistently.

"We have a lot of guys who can put the ball in play, who can hit a lot of singles and doubles. We play more small ball, bunting and getting the steals."

Warroad looking for consistency

After winning the North Subsection 8AA title and reaching the final three before being eliminated in the section high school baseball tournament this spring, Warroad's Legion team is off to an inconsistent start.

The team is 5-4. It's shown big offensive potential, scoring 15 runs in wins against Badger-Greenbush-Middle River and Win-E-Mac last week.


But, coach Brandon Barker said, "We've been kind of up and down. Right now, when we lose, we're not getting timely hitting. When we get the big hits, we're winning."

Barker said most of the high school players are participating in Legion ball, and the team got a boost with the return of Lars Anderson, who graduated from high school in 2009. Anderson and Joel Lambrides, each with two home runs, lead an offense that has seven home runs thus far.

Shawn Storey and Ross Merriman have been Warroad's most consistent pitchers.

"We have a bunch of solid hitters, and we do have some power," Barker said. "These kids know they have the talent, that they can do well. But it is a bit of a different team than what we had in high school. They're in different spots in the order. We still have to understand roles and mesh."

Quinn plays through injury

Daniel Quinn has gone from a standout left-handed pitcher to a right-hander starting at second base for the Larimore American Legion team.

Quinn hurt his left (pitching) arm in a game on June 18. Doctors shut him down, with a mid-July return to the mound at the earliest. In the meantime, he's stayed in the Larimore lineup by moving to second base from his normal first-base position.

"Not having Daniel (available to pitch) is a huge loss for us," Larimore coach Jason Keating said. "He's definitely our ace. He's the kind of pitcher who can go out and dominate teams. He always gave us a shot to win. It's a question mark when he'll be able to pitch again. We'll have to see how the arm is.


"He wanted to keep playing, so we put him at second. He's not bad there. He's made some decent plays. He can throw pretty well right-handed, but I'm not counting on him turning any double plays."

In three games, Quinn had a 2-1 record, striking out 11 in 10 innings while allowing only eight hits. The injury hasn't affected his hitting -- Quinn is still hitting clean-up for 12-10 Larimore, with a .282 batting average.

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