MANDAN - The dogpile near the third-base dugout Thursday night wasn't composed of players who had just clinched a championship.
The celebration included players who struggled for a season to break through in clutch moments and then - two outs from elimination in the state tournament - came up huge twice.
Ethan Stein and Hunter Oothoudt hit back-to-back shots to the left-field wall in the bottom of the ninth inning as No. 5 Minot came back to beat No. 8 Jamestown 3-2 at Veterans Memorial Ballpark.
Alex Howell (5) and Brock Krueger, middle, hug Austin Maercklein, who scored the game-winning run as a pinch runner, as the Vistas won 3-2 in a walk-off win in the ninth inning.
"We got those college kids that came back and they weren't ready to be done," Vistas coach Todd Larson said. "They've been really pushing the young kids and we've lost a few games like that this year, so it's nice to be on the other side of that - especially in the state tournament."
One of those 19-year-olds playing his final season - Stein - drove in another, Micah Holmen, to tie the game at 2. Holmen was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and moved to second on a bunt by catcher Kolton Larson.
Stein, who was robbed by Jamestown center fielder Kasey Gegher on an over-the-shoulder catch in the second inning, wasn't sure if his game-tying hit was going to drop in.
"As soon as I hit it, I was like, 'Oh, great. Here we go again,' " Stein said. "But as soon as I saw (Jamestown left fielder Ben Walz) was kind of lost out there I knew it was over his head."
Austin Maercklein pinch-ran for Stein and Oothoudt came in the game to pinch hit. Oothoudt's hit to left on a first-pitch fastball was nearly identical to Stein's.
"I was always told that when you're on the bench you have to be ready, be in the game and be there when they need you," Oothoudt said. "(Larson) put me in, said, 'You're not letting any balls go by,' and I just took that first one."
Said Stein: "Hunter Oothoudt coming off the bench there cold - hadn't swung a bat since batting practice - put one off the wall I'll love Hunter Oothoudt forever for that."
The Vistas' late-game heroics wouldn't have been possible if not for the pitching of Austin Berntson. The lefthanded ace threw a complete game, allowing just five hits and two runs.
After the Vistas opened the sixth inning with two errors, he pitched out of the jam without allowing a run.
"It was just an awesome game by Austin Berntson on the hill," Larson said. "He pitched his heart out through some big situations."
Berntson battled Jamestown's soft-throwing righthander, Riley Schafer, who didn't overpower the Vistas but repeatedly coaxed them into ground-outs and fly balls to get out of trouble.
"I believed in my team the whole way and I knew we could do it," Berntson said. "I just went up and threw a good game and tried to get us back in the dugout to go hit some more, get some runs."
The Vistas, desperate enough for a rally in the eighth inning, prompted Larson to switch places with first-base coach and Vistas assistant Andy Lach.
"At that point, Andy and I were just tryin' to get something going," Larson said. "It was our way of having fun, I guess, just trying to get the kids to relax."
It turned out the coaches just needed to wait another inning.
The Vistas play the loser of this morning's game between No. 2 West Fargo and No. 3 Grand Forks in a loser-out game at 5 tonight.