The Minot Vistas had two separate motivational forces inspiring them entering Tuesday's doubleheader at Jack Hoeven Park - a pair of games the Vistas won against the Williston Keybirds.
All season, the American Legion team has played to honor the late Michelle Larson, a business teacher at Minot High School and the aunt of Vistas catcher Kolton Larson. Players sport her initials on the underside of cap bills and the sides of cleats. Larson passed away unexpectedly in May at the age of 51.
The other thing driving Minot (14-17, 6-6 state) on Tuesday was a healthy distaste for Williston baseball in general. After the Vistas completed a come-from-behind 6-5 victory in game two, second baseman Marcus Quist was searching for words to explain the rivalry.
Vistas first baseman Ethan Stein doubles in the second inning of Minot’s 11-5 game one victory Tuesday against Williston. It was one of two extra-base hits for Stein.
"It was bad," Quist said of an earlier meeting this summer between the clubs. "It was chippy, big time. How do you explain chippy? Fumes between the teams? There was bad blood between the teams. I don't want to say that we don't like them, but we're not a big fan of them."
The Vistas lost game one of the June doubleheader 13-12, before winning game two 8-6.
Said Vistas coach Todd Larson (no relation to Michelle or Kolton): "There's just been a long-standing history between the two programs. Too long to go into it in a five-minute interview."
Minot jumped ahead early in game one, scoring seven times before Williston (16-20, 3-7) cracked the scoreboard in the fourth.
After the Keybirds closed the gap to 8-5, Minot responded with three more in the sixth. Ethan Stein, who hit eighth for the Vistas, collected his second extra-base hit of the game with an RBI double that drove home the 11th run in an 11-5 win.
"Our order's strong," Stein said. "It doesn't matter if you're hitting one or three or eight or nine in our order. We got a lot of good hitters one through nine."
Williston jumped out to a 4-0 lead after three innings in game two. Alex Howell replaced Austin Maercklein with a pair of runners on base and a 4-2 Minot deficit in the fourth, but got out of the inning allowing just one of the inherited runners to score.
Howell threw three and a third innings of scoreless relief, keeping the gap manageable for the Vistas, who scored four times and took the lead in the fourth.
"Alex Howell came in and did a real good job keeping the game close," Todd Larson said. "He gave us our chance to take the lead."
Quist, who had a double and triple in game one, replaced Howell with two outs left in the ballgame, picked up a save and got through the postgame handshake line as quickly as possible.
"I said 'Good game' and I got on through the line," Quist said. "That's all it is."
The Vistas travel to Mandan for a doubleheader tonight beginning at 5:30.