The theme for much of the Minot Metros' Sunday afternoon doubleheader against the Bismarck Reps Red Senior Babe Ruth team was missed opportunities, outs given away and a general lack of timely hitting.
Runners were left on base and sacrifice bunts led to innings gone awry. Fortunately for the Junior American Legion team, there was also shutdown pitching, which sent the Bismarck offense back to the dugout scoreless in 13 of 14 innings and helped Minot earn a split. The Metros won the second game 6-0 after dropping a 4-2 decision earlier in the afternoon.
Chandler Jacob and Jacob Holmen combined to pitch 13 innings, striking out 14 and surrendering just two earned runs in the process.
"Those are two guys that are leading the charge for us," Metros coach Travis Smith said. "Those are two guys that our whole team just gets comfortable (around), and we just play good baseball behind them."
Jacob's lone hiccup cost him the chance for a win. Entering the fifth inning down 1-0, Bismarck's first three hitters reached base safely on an error, a single and a walk, respectively. Jacob then got Chandler Aarfor to ground into a fielder's choice, with Holmen throwing home for the force out.
A bases-loaded walk tied the game and a wild pitch allowed Bismarck to break ahead. A sacrifice bunt and a single followed, and by the time the inning was over, Minot (8-13) had allowed four runs.
"I need to make a few better pitches," Jacob said. "Not so many walks, probably."
The Metros put the tying runner on base or in the batter's box in every inning the rest of the way, including the fifth inning when Smith elected to have his three-hole hitter Austin Eggl bunt two runners into scoring position instead of allowing him to swing.
Minot scratched just one run across over the final three frames, stranding five runners in that period.
"It's been our Achilles' heel," Smith said. "LOBs. Too many guys left on base. We've been preaching it and talking it."
The first half of the second game unfolded the same way, with Minot unable to push runs across.
Holmen led off the second inning with a single and advanced to second a batter later. With two outs, Ryan Keller roped a single into center field. Bismarck center fielder Ryan Gesselchen threw a dart to the plate that beat Holmen there to end the inning.
The out didn't affect the 16-year-old's composure on the mound. Holmen retired 11 of the first 12 Bismarck batters, keeping the game scoreless while the Metros kept threatening to score.
"I had my offspeed working," Holmen said. "I really fooled them there. I just wanted to go out and get us a win because we've been struggling."
Minot's offense finally got on the board in the fourth inning, when Grant Larson drove Holmen home on a double for the game's first run. The Metros scored three more an inning later.
"I don't think that you go out there and plan to score in the fifth inning," Holmen said. "But it just happened that way, I guess."
Holmen struck out five hitters in a three-hit shutout. Larson collected a pair of hits and recorded two RBIs in the second game.