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Heuchert's home run helps Red River take down West Fargo to keep season alive

Grand Forks Red River defeats West Fargo 8-1 to keep state tournament hopes afloat; Central falls to Shanley 7-5

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The Red River bullpen gathers to celebrate Roughriders batter Gunnar Heuchert's (7) three-run homer during a N.D. East Region consolation semifinals baseball matchup at Kraft Field in Grand Forks on Friday, May 27, 2022.
NICHOLAS NELSON
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GRAND FORKS – Grand Forks Red River had just gotten out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning. The Riders were already leading West Fargo 1-0, but needed a spark to reward another stellar Brett Feller outing on the mound.

Gunnar Heuchert dug into the batter’s box with runners on second and third. On the first pitch of the at-bat he sent a towering fly ball over the left field wall and put the Roughriders in the driver’s seat, as they would go on to defeat the top-seeded Packers 8-1 in a loser-out game in the East Region tournament at Kraft Field.

“He’s a strong kid,” said Red River head coach Mark Varriano. “Anytime you’re scoring runs, especially a home run, that is a huge pick-me-up.”

With Feller on the mound, Red River was able to roll through the Packers. Following the home run in the top of the fourth, Feller and the defense allowed just four hits and took away a number of threatening West Fargo chances, including a double play up the middle to end the fifth inning.

The hard-dealing junior reached his 120 pitch limit just before the final out of the game, which kept him from throwing the complete-game win. In his 6.2 innings, he struck out seven and allowed one run on seven hits.

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“The whole game the mindset is get outs, as easy as possible,” said Feller. “I have to play with the field behind me and trust that they are going to make plays, which they did today.”

Friday’s battery and the return of Spencer Sproule also stood out, as the chemistry between the two remained steady through long, tough outs.

“Every pitcher who has ever thrown is always comfortable with certain catchers. They feel comfortable throwing things in certain counts and know which pitches need to be blocked,” Varriano said.

On offense, Feller helped his own cause by falling just a home run short of the cycle. His six total bases were a team-high as he went three-for-four with an RBI. He crossed the plate on Heuchert’s three-run homer.

In total, the Red River offense racked up 10 hits and all but two players made it all the way around the bases successfully.

Previously against West Fargo this year, Red River fell 10-5 in the regular season in a game that was closer than it looked on the scoreboard. The Roughriders kept it interesting, but couldn’t stop the Packers from adding to their hit total.

“We didn’t throw our number one guy against them, which makes a big difference. We hit with people on base this time. We threw strikes, there was situational hitting. It feels good to get a win,” said Varriano.

The Roughriders kept their season alive against the EDC’s best but still have one more step in qualifying for the state tournament. They will have to take down the loser of West Fargo Sheyenne and Fargo North on Saturday to make it to Jamestown.

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It’s a back-to-back situation so the legs will stay warm for the Riders, and the message remains the same.

“Take today into tomorrow. Get on the mound, throw strikes and play defense. Put the ball in play,” Varriano said,

Grand Forks Red River 8,

West Fargo 1

RR 100 312 1 8 10 1

WF 000 001 0 1 7 5

RR – Gunnar Heuchert 2-3, HR, 3 RBI; Brett Feller 3-4, 3B, RBI; Jaden Rustad 1-4 RBI; Mason Stroh 1-3; Logan Okstad 1-4; Cole LeDuc 1-5; Dylan Desmarais 1-3; Noah Burger 2 BB, RBI; Feller (W) 6.2 IP, 7 H, ER, 3 BB, 7 K

FS – Mason Stoelting 2-4; Jaden Grefsrud 2-4; Peyton Jantzi 1-3, RBI; Carson Tveito 1-2; Leyton Hofland 1-1; Heupel (L) 3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K

Central ousted by Shanley

Despite another strong Grand Forks Central performance on the mound, this time from Chance Colgrove, the Knights dropped their chance at a state-qualifying game in a 7-5 loss to Shanley on Friday at Kraft Field.

Adam Leininger drove in four runs on two hits for the Deacons, including a bases-clearing double in the third inning that erased a 3-0 Central lead.

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“We did a great job jumping on them right away. We put balls in play and Chance threw strikes,” Central head coach Tim Gregoire said. “When you throw strikes, there’s a chance they are going to swing at it and hit it.”

In the fifth, Shanley pounced and pushed out in front. Leininger doubled down the right field line to bring in the leading run. Then, a single from Landon Meier and a double from Josh Biver brought in three more and extended the Deacons lead to 7-3.

A rally in the seventh came up just short for Central. Sam Strandell ripped a gapper into right-center that hit off the top half of the fence and scored two runs. A strikeout and a groundout would end the game shortly after and end the season for the Knights.

“This team had been counted out all year long. Nobody expected us to even be in this position, but they are a gritty and gutsy group of guys. They gave themselves every opportunity to play to move on and today they were just on the wrong side of it,” Gregoire said.

Grand Forks Central 5,

Shanley 7

GFC 120 000 2 5 10 0

FS 003 040 x 7 8 0

GFC – Dillon Kuntz 2-2, 2 RBI, 2 BB; Sam Strandell 2-4, 2 RBI; Chance Colgrove 2-4, Cole Barta 1-4, RBI; Jack Jahnke 1-2; Wyatt Wockenfuss 1-4; Zach Erickson 1-3; Colgrove (L) 5 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

FS – Adam Leininger 2-3, 4 RBI; Josh Biver 1-3, 2 RBI; Landon Meier 1-2, RBI; Sam Ovsak 1-2, 2 R; Biver (W) 4 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

Digital Content Producer and Sports Reporter at the Grand Forks Herald since December of 2020. Maxwell can be contacted at mmarko@gfherald.com.
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