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Legion baseball; West Fargo Patriots earn much needed sweep

Things got even worse for the West Fargo Patriots baseball team after a poor performance in the F-M tournament late last month led to a three-game losing streak.

That streak turned into five games for the Patriots who gave up 29 runs to Fargo Post 2 in losing both ends of a doubleheader last week, including a 19-1 loss in game two.

Just when hopes for the Patriots were beginning to fade, the team returned to its earlier form this season with a doubleheader sweep of Wahpeton 3-0 and 14-3 on July 2.

"It's been a big comeback. Our pitching had a chance to rest, and we all wanted to get back on track because we were struggling," said first baseman Trevor Plehal.

The conference sweep keeps the seventh-place Patriots (5-7 in conference play) in the race for an automatic state tournament bid. The top five teams make the state tourney, while the rest play in a qualifying tourney that sends the top two teams to state.

"It was big for us to get those two wins (against Wahpeton) and just say, 'okay, okay, we can handle this. We're fine.' We gathered ourselves and are moving forward from there," said Patriots coach Shannon Miller. "We knew we had to show up and take care of business. The doubleheader was huge."

West Fargo can thank its pitching for the wins versus Wahpeton. A steady rotation to open the season, the Patriots were shaky in recent tournament play. Pitchers Matt Strahm and Tyler Gronbeck performed well against Wahpeton, Strahm struck out 11 and gave up only two hits to earn the shutout in the first game. The Patriots had 13 hits in the second game.

With his team up 14-0 in the second game, Miller told the players they wouldn't have to do any conditioning or sprinting after the game if they didn't give up any walks. The coach said that even though the game was well in hand, he wants his players to get used to pressure situations.

"I want to keep putting the pressure on these guys," said Miller.

The Patriots may very well find themselves in pressure-filled situations as they play their final games of the regular season.

Results from Tuesday's doubleheader with Grand Forks were unavailable before press time. The Patriots play Alexandria today in the Metrodome in Minneapolis after the Twins-Yankees game.

"We were shaken a little bit. We were just frustrated, especially with no rest," said Plehal, of the team going into the Wahpeton doubleheader. "We understood that we needed to get back on track, and we came back."