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Grand Forks Central downs Red River in baseball season opener

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Central first baseman Joseph Grabanski connects with the ball during Monday's rivalry baseball game against Red River at Kraft Memorial Field. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald2 / 6
Red River pitcher Conner Richardson fires the baseball across home plate at Kraft Memorial Field Monday night against Grand Forks Central. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald3 / 6
Red River first baseman Coby Tweten tags out Central's Parker Stroh on Monday night at Kraft Memorial Field. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald4 / 6
Central catcher Parker Stroh snags a foul ball as teammate Dalton Koland (#12) watches during Monday's baseball game against Grand Forks Red River. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald5 / 6
Red River's Nathan Schmacher slides into Central infielder Carson Williams Monday afternoon at Kraft Memorial Field. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald6 / 6

Zach Vodden did the expected on the mound and the unexpected at the plate Monday.

The Grand Forks Central junior picked up the pitching win and added a pair of hits as the Knights pulled away to a 15-6 win against Grand Forks Red River in the high school baseball season opener for both teams at Kraft Field.

Vodden is no stranger to pitching success. The right-hander was 4-0 with a 1.62 earned run average last season. But, after getting just one hit in three at-bats last season, he was 2-for-3 against the Roughriders.

"I definitely was not a very good hitter last year,'' Vodden said. "But I've worked at it. To get two hits, that's pretty exciting. But the (pitching) win is the big thing, especially against Red River.''

How big of a surprise was his hitting? "Initially, we weren't going to have him in the batting order,'' Knights coach Tim Gregoire said. "We usually use a (designated hitter) for our pitchers. That was an added bonus. If he continues to hit like that, he'll stay in the lineup.

"He pitched well for the first time out. He threw strikes.''

Vodden allowed four runs on five hits in five innings. He struck out five, but did struggle with his control (five walks, four hit batters).

Central jumped to a 4-1 lead before Red River rallied in the bottom of the fourth. Drew Montgomery doubled home two runs and Parker Monette lined a single to left to drive in the tying run.

In the top of the fifth, however, Central answered. Joey Grabanski tripled to deep right-center to break the 4-4 tie, Vodden and Brandon Holt each had run-scoring hits and the Knights scored four in the inning. Central pulled away with four runs in the sixth and three in the seventh.

Five Central players had multiple hits. Parker Stroh led the way with three, with Grabanski, Vodden, Cade Barta and Holt getting two each. Barta was in the No. 6 spot in the batting lineup, with Vodden hitting eighth and Holt ninth.

"We weren't sure how the bottom of the lineup would do,'' Gregoire said. "But they found a way to hit the ball and get on base.''

Red River managed eight hits, three by Monette and two each by Coby Tweten and Montgomery. "That was a really good performance for a freshman in his first varsity game,'' Red River coach Mark Varriano said of Montgomery.

"Coming back to tie it, that was a step in the right direction for us. But you have to give Central credit. They put the ball in play and got timely hits.''

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