The Minot Vistas have shown proficiency with the squeeze bunt over their four home games, but the play backfired in the most crucial moment of Monday's doubleheader against Fargo American Legion Post 2 at Jack Hoeven Park.
With the Vistas trailing by one run in the sixth inning of game two, Ben Magnuson - who laid two of the Vistas' previous three successful squeezes - strode to the plate. Vistas coach Todd Larson called for the bunt, but Fargo pitcher Justin Beach's curveball was in the dirt and Minot's Braden Lysne was tagged out in a rundown.
Post 2 went on to a 5-4 victory. Fargo also won game one 7-2 behind a solid pitching performance from hard-throwing lefty Casey Quinlan.
Minot Vistas second baseman Marcus Quist turns a double play as Fargo’s Andrew Beyer slides into second during a doubleheader Monday at Jack Hoeven Park.
"I take full responsibility for that," Larson said of the botched squeeze attempt, explaining that he thought Beach would throw a fastball - an easier pitch to bunt. "Our hitter didn't have a chance to do anything with it. When we run a squeeze, we sell out and our runners are goin', so we live and die with that situation."
The Vistas (10-15 overall, 3-5 state) only managed one hit off Fargo game two starter Connor Robley until the sixth inning, when Minot started the inning with six consecutive singles.
That barrage scored four runs and placed runners on second and third with no outs. After second baseman Marcus Quist grounded out, shortstop Caleb Fornshell was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
The failed squeeze attempt accounted for the second out, and Minot leadoff Sheldon Marmon grounded weakly back to Beach to end the rally.
"Once again, just a play or two away," Larson said. "We just can't seem to get that big hit with runners in scoring position."
Austin Maercklein suffered the loss for Minot, allowing five runs on six hits in 5 1-3 innings.
Fargo (19-8, 4-0) won game one on the strength of 12 hits and the power pitching of Quinlan, who Larson described as "probably the best pitcher in the state."
Quinlan struck out 10 Minot batters with a four-pitch arsenal that included a tailing fastball and hooking curve.
Minot took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth after Fornshell and Magnuson executed squeeze bunts in consecutive at-bats.
But Fargo scored three runs in each of the next two innings to seal the win. With a runner on first and one out in the top of the sixth, Matt Schalow hit a whistling line drive past Minot first baseman Ethan Stein for an RBI triple.
Larson said if Stein had made that tough play, the outcome could have been different. Vistas infielder Micah Holmen agreed.
"With Sheldon throwing a game like that, to have a 2-1 lead, we need to close out," Holmen said. "If we get outta that sixth inning, we're in the bottom of their order (and) we're three outs away from winning."
Larson said the Vistas have been a couple plays or hits away from winning several games this season.
"The kids gotta figure it out," he said. "We've talked to 'em until we're blue in the face here, but until they get that big hit in that big situation we're gonna be frustrated."
The Vistas play Dickinson today at 4 p.m. in a non-league doubleheader at Hoeven Park.