Metros split with G.F. after walk-off victory

No lead is safe when the Minot Metros play Grand Forks and it was more of the same Thursday.

Minot fell one run short of completing a seventh-inning rally in game one, plating six runs in a 9-8 loss. In game two, the Metros surrendered a three-run lead before walking off with a 6-5 victory for a junior American Legion doubleheader split at Corbett Field.

Trever Ringoen scored the game-winning run after a pitch by Grand Forks reliever Alex Severson got away from catcher Nick Manske with runners at the corners and one out. It was Minot’s first victory against Grand Forks this season and the fourth one-run game between the two clubs.

“It’s the story of these two teams,” Metros coach Jason Steele said. “We compete well against each other, which is nice to see. We haven’t been playing our best baseball for lots of different reasons, but we find a way to keep competing.”

Thursday’s doubleheader followed a similar script of the June twin bill when the teams met in Grand Forks. The Metros (14-16) fell behind 10-0 after one inning before scoring 10 unanswered runs, only to fall 11-10. In game two, Minot jumped out to a seven-run lead, but Grand Forks scored the final eight runs of the game for the sweep of that series.

Grand Forks appeared certain to capture game one in Thursday’s doubleheader, taking a 9-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh. The Metros had mustered only two hits off starter Baden Ripplinger and didn’t record their first base knock until the fifth inning. But Minot teed off on closer Brock Montgomery.

Travis Walker led off the inning with a walk before the next five batters singled to reach base. Jaden Wahlund, Cody Reynolds and Dalton Cooper recorded RBI base hits and Andrew Arnold and Ringoen tallied RBI groundouts. Conor Taney grounded out to Montgomery to end the game.

“We have a talented squad,” Steele said. “We have a lot of guys that can make a lot of plays and do a lot of different things for us. But we need to learn to control the bleeding a bit early in the game. Offensively, when we have runners in scoring position early in the game, we have to find a way to manufacture those runs to make it easier on us later in the game.”

The Metros did just that in the second game, plating three runs in the third inning. Cooper laced an RBI single into left field, scoring Hunter Duttenhefer for the first run of the game. Taney followed with a two-run single to right. All three runs came with two outs.

“We had three close games against these guys and we didn’t want to lose another one,” Cooper said. “We lost three one-run games and we wanted to beat them this time.”

Taney collected his third RBI of the contest in the fifth, scoring Cooper from second after he doubled to deep right. Taney and Cooper combined to go 5 for 7 with four RBIs and two runs scored.

“It was just going the other way and taking what the pitcher’s giving to me,” Taney said, “and also staying on top of the ball.”

Metros starting pitcher Liam Owens pitched well with the early cushion, retiring seven straight Grand Forks batters between the third and fifth innings. But two Minot errors in the sixth – one by Owens on a routine pop up – opened the flood gates for Grand Forks to take its first lead of the game. Owens left after 5 1/3 innings pitched, allowing five runs on two hits and striking out nine.

Minot quickly recovered and knotted the game at 5-5 with a pinch-hit RBI single by Walker.

“Today we took the same mindset when we were down 9-2 and we didn’t want to lose another when we went up in the second game,” Taney said.

Cooper pitched a scoreless seventh inning in relief, setting the stage for the Metros’ walk-off win. Cooper said when Ringoen reached base via an error, he knew they were going to win in regulation.

The Metros travel to face Bismarck at 1 p.m. Sunday.