Wahpeton edges Velva in pitching duel

WAHPETON – The final game of Wednesday’s opening round of the Class A American Legion baseball state tournament was a duel between tournament host Wahpeton and Velva.

The home team came out on top for a 2-1 victory at John Randall Field thanks to a complete-game gem by its starting pitcher Brock Lingen.

Lingen posted 13 strikeouts and scattered four hits to earn the win, but it was Velva that got on the board first. Velva plated a run in the second inning when Ryan Kuntz scored Brady Engebretson on an RBI fielder’s choice.

“Brock didn’t have his best stuff at the beginning of the game, but he got stronger as the game went on,” Wahpeton coach Chris Kappes said. “He was popping some pitches in there pretty good toward the end of the game.”

At one point Lingen struck out five straight.

“Once I got my fastball going I was able to throw my other pitches,” Lingen said. “I definitely felt stronger at the end and that’s something that I’ve always been able to do, but I don’t really know why that it is.”

Wahpeton tied the game 1-1 in the third inning when Tyler Gripentrog scored Seth Meide on an RBI triple that bounced off the wall in left field. Wahpeton took the lead in the fourth by scoring a run off an error.

It was just enough to edge Velva.

Velva starter Brad Dean was equally efficient on the mound and countered Lingen by scattering five hits and walking just one batter in six innings of work.

“It was a (pitching) duel between two great teams,” Velva coach Brent Engebretson said. “A lot of times we have been a play away from getting a win and it was that way again here. Brad deserved to get the win, but (Lingen) was on fire.”

Velva had the tying run on second base in the top of the seventh inning, but Lingen shut the rally down with a strikeout to end the game.

“That one put it over the top,” Lingen said of the final strikeout.

Gripentrog finished 2-for-2 at the plate for Wahpeton. Wahpeton plays Casselton at 8 p.m. today in the winners’ bracket. Velva plays Makoti in an elimination game at 2 p.m. today.