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Legion baseball: Defeats with diversity

Narrow setbacks or one-sided defeats -- which is harder to take? "The closer ones are tougher to swallow," Grand Forks Royals American Legion baseball coach Gabe Dahl said. "There are so many spots in those (kinds of games) where you can look bac...

Baseball
A ball hit by Grand Forks Royals' (#7) falls between Williston's (#2) center fielder (#19) ) center) and right fielder (#7) (right) for a hit in the fourth inning of Williston's 14-1 win in the first game of a double header Monday in Grand Forks. Herald photo by John Stennes.

Narrow setbacks or one-sided defeats -- which is harder to take?

"The closer ones are tougher to swallow," Grand Forks Royals American Legion baseball coach Gabe Dahl said. "There are so many spots in those (kinds of games) where you can look back and see that, if you'd made a play, it would have made a big difference."

The Royals have had more than their share of both kinds of defeats of late. Grand Forks' losing streak was extended to eight Monday when it lost 14-1 and 5-3 to visiting Williston.

The defeats had a bit of everything that's been going on in the past eight games for the Royals -- a run in which they've lost five games by three or fewer runs, allowed more than 10 runs in four games and had seven innings in which they've allowed four or more runs.

Williston had two of those big innings in the opener. The Keybirds took a 4-1 lead with a four-run third highlighted by a bases-loaded triple by Alex Hanson. Williston put away the win with 10 runs in the fifth, with Shawn Egge's 15th home run of the season, a three-run shot, being the big hit.

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"We don't have a lineup that will get 10-12 hits a game, and we haven't hit a lot of home runs," Dahl said. "We don't have an offense that can mash it out with other teams in a game like that."

Williston, meanwhile, has eight players hitting better than .300.

"These kids can hit," Williston coach Chip Devlin said. "We hit really well in the first game.

"But every once in awhile, somebody throws a slower pitcher with a big curveball and we can't hit them."

Mick Koski filled that role in the second game. Koski held Williston to five hits through the first five innings. But, in the top of the sixth, John Westphal had a leadoff single and, after being sacrificed to second, scored on Austin Grundstad's ground-ball single up the middle to break a 3-3 tie.

The Royals had jumped ahead 2-1 on Ryne Anderson's two-run single in the first. After Williston scored twice, Grand Forks tied the score with an unearned run in the fourth.

But the Royals left seven runners in scoring position on base. And Grand Forks' bid for a tie in the sixth was gunned down. Taylor Steen, on second after a double, was thrown out at home by left fielder Casey Gardner on a close play trying to score on Anderson's two-out single.

"Casey made a great play," Devlin said. "He understood the situation. He was quick coming in on the ball, and he's got an above-average arm."

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Anderson produced twice in scoring situations. Overall, however, "We couldn't get a clutch hit," Dahl said. "That's been our problem all year, struggling to get the big hit.

"It's very frustrating. We know we have kids who can make the plays. It's just getting them to come through and do it."

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