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Patriots drop with losing streak

A week while facing the conference's best proved the West Fargo Patriots have a little bit of work to do if they want to contend for this year's East Region title in Summer Baseball competition last week.

The Pats lost four in a row in conference play, falling to Fargo in a double-header on Wednesday, then losing a double-dip with Grand Forks on Sunday night to fall to third place in the East Region standings behind those two teams.

Only the first game of each match-up counted in the conference standings, and Fargo Post 2 and Grand Forks were each able to take advantage of huge innings to put distance between themselves and the pesky Pats.

West Fargo's best outing, arguably, was Wednesday night when the squad took a 6-0 lead over Gabe Shockman and Post 2, using timely hitting and solid base-running over five innings to keep Fargo at bay. But the team broke down in the late innings, giving up eight runs as Cole Horsager was chased in the fifth, and Dustin Gregory gave up the loss when Fargo broke an 8-8 tie in the bottom of the seventh, rallying with two out.

In Wednesday's first contest, Fargo used a seven-run second inning, overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the early-going, to take an 8-3 lead, getting to Tyler Greshik in that frame thanks to a pair of big hits and a pair of West Fargo errors.

Sunday, it was nearly the same scenario, as the Pats' Curtis Hensley was the victim, giving up seven runs in the first inning and watching the Royals take an 8-0 lead into the top of the third.

In both games, West Fargo battled, scoring key runs at times and scattering hits, but the holes were too great in size, and proved insurmountable.

The Patriots entered last week with a 5-2 record in the Region, and fell to 5-4 with the pair of losses.

Sandwiched in between those two efforts was a disappointing trip to Minot, arguably the top team in the state of North Dakota at the A level. The Vistas thrashed West Fargo with 28 runs in two games, winning 15-2 and 13-3 last Saturday in the Magic City. Minot currently has an overall record of 34-5. The Pats, meanwhile, slipped to below .500 on the season.

"We're hanging around," Brett Peterson, head coach of the Patriots, said. "Our pitching hasn't been where we want it to be yet. We have a couple of weeks to work that out. Our offense has been very capable of putting up a lot of runs. We just need to keep tightening things up on the defensive side and we'll be all right."

The Pats look to be in decent shape in making their way to the State A Legion Tournament, a trip they missed in spring ball. West Fargo has been solid against the teams behind them in the standings, including Jamestown, Valley City and Wahpeton, a trio of teams they face down the stretch.

That stretch run started Monday night with a home twin bill versus Valley City. The Pats looked to be back on track in those two games, led by Tyrel Thorson's homerun in the first contest.

West Fargo scored eight runs in the bottom half of the first inning to put the first contest out of reach. The Pats scored 13 runs, and Adam Crist was stellar from the mound, going the distance for a four-hit shutout. West Fargo's defense committed no errors in the win.

In the nightcap, the Pats again used a big first inning to take command, and then exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the fourth to put the Hi-Liners at bay.

Alex Salquist led the West Fargo offense in game two with a pair of hits and three RBIs.

The Pats will be at Jamestown Tuesday night as this edition of the Pioneer goes to press. This Thursday, they'll begin a three day stint in Detroit Lakes, when they battle Devils Lake and a host of other Minnesota squads in the DL Water Carnival Tournament. They'll return home next Tuesday, July 18, for a conference twin bill versus Wahpeton. Those contests begin at 5:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Field in West Fargo.