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Grand Forks Royals earn split with Fargo thanks to walk-off walk

For a doubleheader headlined by the strong starting pitching of Grand Forks' Brock Reller and Fargo's Cameron Blazek, the matchup between the two American Legion baseball teams ended with a walk-off walk.

Grand Forks Royal's Connek Richardson, right catches the ball at home plate as Fargo's Ben Bryant. Bryant made it to home safe. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)
Grand Forks Royal's Conner Richardson, right catches the ball at home plate as Fargo's Ben Bryant. Bryant made it to home safe. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)

For a doubleheader headlined by the strong starting pitching of Grand Forks' Brock Reller and Fargo's Cameron Blazek, the matchup between the two American Legion baseball teams ended with a walk-off walk.

Isaac Burger's walk with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning salvaged a split for the Royals in Game 2 of the Wednesday doubleheader at Kraft Field.

Fargo Post 2 won Game 1 8-2 and the Royals won the nightcap 5-4.

"I liked that we competed to the end," Grand Forks coach Nick Chine said. "It's easily preached and taught but to actually execute that is important, especially early in the season. When things happen like that, winning in the last at-bat with two outs and the bases loaded, that tends to be momentum that can carry throughout the season. The words you're saying about competing the whole game take on some meaning."

Grand Forks entered the seventh down 4-2. With one out, Rakeem Wright, Brenden Bethke and Ben Carolin started the rally with singles and trimmed the score to 4-3. Reller was then intentionally walked to load the bases.

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The Royals would tie the score at 4-4 when Landon Kraft reached on a fielder's choice on a soft shot to second.

With two outs, Zach Murphy was hit by a pitch. Burger followed by working the count full and drawing a walk with an inside pitch to score the winning run.

"I thought we played well and battled," Fargo Post 2 coach Luke Rustad said. "We put ourselves in position to finish off the game. (The Royals) did a nice job in the last inning to get guys on base and have an opportunity to win."

Game 1 was all about Blazek, who threw six innings and allowed just two hits and struck out nine.

"He was about as good as I've seen coming out like that the first five innings," Chine said. "His location was at the knees consistently. He had four pitches working for him all game long."

Reller, meanwhile, dominated Game 2, minus a three-run fourth inning highlighted by a two-run single by Brandt Kolpack.

Reller threw all seven innings, allowing seven hits and striking out 10.

"Reller might be one of the top two pitchers, if not the top pitcher, in the state," Rustad said.

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Reller said he felt a little rusty. He threw for the first time since he pitched for Grand Forks Central in the East Region high school baseball tournament.

"I need to spot my pitches better," he said.

As for the late rally?

"The last inning was great," Reller said. "That's how we should've been playing the whole game. But we know we can play like that when our backs are against the wall."

Related Topics: PREP SPORTSBASEBALL
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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