LEGION BASEBALL NOTEBOOK: East Grand Forks hopes lessons are learned

Struggles of the past aren't something Garret Hjelle wants to forget now. East Grand Forks takes the No. 3 seed into the Minnesota Division I Sub-state 14 American Legion baseball tournament in Bemidji. In Thursday's first round of the double-eli...

Struggles of the past aren’t something Garret Hjelle wants to forget now.

East Grand Forks takes the No. 3 seed into the Minnesota Division I  Sub-state 14 American Legion baseball tournament in Bemidji. In Thursday’s first round of the double-elimination tournament, EGF plays No. 6 Thief River Falls at 4 p.m.

East Grand Forks was the No. 2 seed in the tournament last summer, but was eliminated quickly when it lost its first two games. In high school baseball this spring, East Grand Forks Senior High was the No. 1 seed in North Subsection 8AA, but was eliminated with a first-round loss to No. 8 Mahnomen-Waubun.

“These kids have had success growing up,’’ EGF Legion coach Garret Hjelle said. “They’ve gotten to the highest level now and have had a bad taste at the end of their seasons. We don’t dwell on it. But it is good to remember, to look at what happened and learn from it.

“There’s no added pressure because of what’s happened in the past. The pressure is always there at tournament time.’’


Hjelle said the big lesson for EGF is the need to avoid giving big innings to opponents.

At the sub-state tournament last season, for instance, Fergus Falls scored five runs in the top of the ninth inning to rally to an 8-5 win. Mahnomen-Waubun broke a 2-2 tie with three runs in the top of the sixth en route to a 5-4 win in the first round of the high school playoffs this spring.

“It’s been big innings, where we’ve taken an inning off and paid for it,’’ Hjelle said. “That can really change things. And we’ve done that some this summer, too.’’

East Grand Forks, 23-19, has shown offensive punch. Cole Hammargren (.444, 35 RBI), Ethan Mushitz (.441, 3 home runs, 39 RBI), Reed Hjelle (.425, 4 HR, 52 RBI), Scott Mortenson (.386, 1 HR, 22 RBI) and Donnie Musgrove (.358, 24 RBI) lead an offensive that has a .343 team batting average.

Chance Borden (4-2, 4.26 earned run average) and Reed Hjelle (6-2, 4.37) lead the pitching staff.

“These kids don’t want another early exit,’’ Garret Hjelle said. “I think they’re ready.’’

Royals bounce back


A recent western road trip didn’t go well for the Grand Forks Royals American Legion baseball team. The Royals lost four straight games, being swept in back-to-back doubleheaders by Bismarck and Mandan.

The Royals responded to the losing streak by closing their regular season with six wins in their final eight regular-season games. Grand Forks will take a 26-11 record into the North Dakota Class AA state tournament, which begins Wednesday in Dickinson.

After the doubleheader sweeps at the hands of Bismarck and Mandan, “I wasn’t concerned about our team so much as I was frustrated and disappointed,’’ Royals coach Nick Chine said. “And the kids felt the same way. We felt we were a better team than we showed.

“When we give our opponents help by not throwing strikes and making errors, we’re giving them opportunities to beat us. With our talent and experience, when we are making plays in the field and throwing strikes, we’ve been hard to beat.’’

The Royals’ offense has a .367 team batting average. Leading the way are Kaleb Binstock (.462, 4 home runs, 63 RBI), Ben Carolin (.419, 39 RBI), Eric Leach (.375, 1 HR, 28 RBI), Cole Kirchoffner (.366, 1, 22), Jayce Turner (.361, 1 HR, 11 RBI) and Brock Reller (.360, 5 HR, 27 RBI).

Colin Hennessy (4-1, 1.36 ERA), Baden Ripplinger (4-0, 3.66) and Erik Hanson (5-1, 3.92) lead the pitching staff.

The Royals currently are in third place in state standings and could get as high as the No. 2 seed.

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