Royals split doubleheader with Mandan to boost state tournament hopes
After dropping game one 5-4, Grand Forks took the back half 10-9.
GRAND FORKS – Games one and two against Mandan were a step in the right direction for the Grand Forks Royals at Kraft Field on Wednesday.
The early game featured a comeback effort that fell just short as they rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to bring the score to 5-4. The tying run would be left on second base, but before that some strong contact made for an interesting ending.
It started with Brett Feller reaching base on a bunt single. Feller was then moved over by Cole Barta being walked.
Then Chance Colgrove brought in the pair with a two-out, two-run double into the right field gap.
Unable to wrangle in Colgrove, the Royals dropped their 11th consecutive game before heading into state tournament season. Currently sitting in the ninth spot in the Class AA standings and not much room to move with one game remaining, they are looking at a potential play-in game scenario which will be held on Saturday.
“We always teach the kids, you want to compete until the end,” Royals coach Nick Chine said. “We were right there and that’s all you can ask. Give yourself a chance.”
The chance was there again in game two against Mandan. This time, Grand Forks got the ball rolling on offense with a bases-loaded scenario coming up in the first inning.
A Ryan Muizelaar single and Colgrove double before the first outscored an immediate four runs and set the tone for the rest of the evening. Shortly after, Jaden Rustad drove in a sacrifice fly to open up a 5-0 lead.
They would load the bases again in the very next inning, this time with two outs on the board. A hit by pitch to Colgrove, Dylan Desmarais walk and Rustad double put up five more runs. Before the halfway mark it was 10-0 Royals.
The Chiefs then responded with five runs of their own in the next half inning and four in the top of the fifth. In the blink of an eye it was just a one-run game.
They would have more opportunities for insurance runs to add on to their lead, but two consecutive innings ending in Mandan double plays would put the fire out. Luckily, Logan Okstad would come in to shut the door in the seventh and secure the 10-9 win.
Okstad pitched in the first game as well, pointing out a shorter roster currently working against the Royals as there is not a lot of room to work with regarding rest days and substitutions. On Wednesday there were just nine available players, with Feller and Jack Jahnke working on a tight pitch count.
“It’s been challenging. But as the movie line says, ‘There’s no crying in baseball.’ Everybody has their issues that they have to deal with, we’re no exception. We’ll do the best we can. They’re good kids and play hard,” said Chine.
With win-or-go-home games coming up in the form of a state tournament, Grand Forks has pressure mounting.
“We just need to play better on a whole. We need to pitch better, we need to hit better and we need to play better defense if we’re about to keep going and get to the state tournament. It’s going to be challenging for us,” Chine said.