The Grand Forks Blue Devils summer baseball team is nearing the end of a season-opening 10-game homestand.
Although long road trips west to Williston and Dickinson loom ahead, coach Kelvin Ziegler is getting a clearer picture of how his new team is faring in the early tests at Kraft Field.
Reinforced with two smooth wins over Mandan on Monday night, the Blue Devils are definitely making the grade on a season that started with so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Grand Forks won the opener 4-0 and the nightcap 8-1. The Blue Devils improved to 6-2, while the Chiefs dropped to 1-6.
Dominant pitching performances from Zach Ziegler, Brody Sorenson and Zach Carolin led the way against Mandan.
Ziegler pitched Game 1. The right-hander struck out six and gave up just one single.
"Very happy with the way Zach threw the first game," his dad Kelvin said. "He kept us in the ballgame and kept them off stride. His slider was working and changed speeds well."
In a 2-0 game in the fifth inning, Grand Forks slugger Joey Grabanski extended the lead to 4-0 with a two-run home run to left field.
"Joey busted it open, and he's done that in a couple of games for us now," Ziegler said.
In Game 2, Sorenson struck out 12 through six innings of work before giving way to Carolin, who struck out three more in the seventh.
Despite the dominant pitching performance in Game 2, the Blue Devils were knotted in a 1-1 game until exploding in a seven-run sixth inning.
The breakthrough hit came from Channing LeNoir, who hit a two-run double to provide some cushion.
"I think everyone is starting to understand their roles a little bit," Ziegler said. "I don't think we're even close to reaching our peak offensively, but I think we'll get there."
Grand Forks closes the long homestand Thursday night in a non-conference doubleheader against Detroit Lakes.
Grand Forks 4-8,
MAN 000 000 0 -- 0 1 1
GRA 200 020 x -- 4 7 1
WP -- Zach Ziegler; LP -- Blake Arenz
Highlights -- M: Jacob Weiand 1x2; GF: Jackson Haagenson 2x3, Joey Grabanski 2x3, HR, 2 RBIs, Zach Carolin 2x3,
MAN 100 000 0 -- 1 6 1
GRA 100 007 x -- 8 9 2
WP -- Brody Sorenson; LP -- Ben Kleinknecht
Highlights -- M: Caleb Schmidt 2x3, 2 2Bs; GF: Sorenson 2x3, 3B, Joey Grabanski 2x2, 2 2Bs, Tanner Faller 1x1, 2B