With a rough previous outing in the back of his mind, Minot High School senior pitcher Hunter Oothoudt was intent on throwing a smarter game in his final career start at home.
Oothoudt tossed eight strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings and junior Demitry Zafra earned the save as MHS beat Dickinson 4-3 in the Magicians' West Region finale and Senior Night on Thursday at Jack Hoeven Park. Oothoudt gave up six runs in the first two innings of a 9-8 loss to Bismarck High last week.
"Bismarck High, they started off just on me," Oothoudt said. "They picked up my speed right away, picked up all my pitches. (Against Dickinson), I started off better - showing different pitches, so they couldn't pick up on it. Throwing curveballs, once in awhile, changeups, just mixing it up."
Oothoudt was one of four consecutive MHS batters to record an RBI as the team scored all four of its runs in the third inning to take the lead. The Magicians (16-2 overall, 12-2 region) will likely be the No. 1 seed when the West Region tournament begins Thursday in Bismarck. BHS can snag that spot by winning its final three games.
"All our guys are doing a nice job on the hill," MHS coach Pete Stenberg said. "(Oothoudt's) just steady. He's so calm out there. He's working our infielders with picks, and so forth, and he works the batters really well as far as making them wait for his pitch and that just shows his maturity."
Stenberg hoped to leave Oothoudt in for a complete game, but after three scoreless innings Dickinson sophomore Mark Erickson hit a one-out double in the seventh. Zafra forced the next Midget into a groundout and struck out senior Brady Dutchak to end the game.
Oothoudt had two strikeouts in three separate innings and worked through an awkward sequence when Dickinson (11-9, 7-7) took a 2-0 lead in the first. Dutchak walked to open the game and junior Dylan Skabo reached on a bunt that drew much of the MHS infield out of position and allowed Dutchak to reach third. Midgets freshman Mike McChesney drove in both players with a double.
"We had a chance," DHS coach Pete Dobitz said. "We had Hunter on the ropes, but tip your cap to him because he settled himself in and finished what he started, so I give a lot of credit to him."
The Midgets' third run was unearned and came on a throwing error by MHS sophomore catcher Zach Danelson in the third inning. Danelson overthrew junior third baseman Brady Lampert as McChesney stole third. Oothoudt closed the frame with two strikeouts and MHS responded with four runs.
MHS junior Kolton Larson connected on an RBI double and Oothoudt followed with a sacrifice fly. Lampert and sophomore Grant Larson also drove in a run each with doubles before DHS senior pitcher James Kary was pulled.
Oothoudt nearly topped his pitching performance with his sixth-inning at-bat. For the second straight time through the lineup, DHS intentionally walked Kolton Larson to get to Oothoudt with two men on and two outs. Oothoudt crushed a pitch from DHS junior reliever Cole Anderson and the ball sailed slightly outside the left-field foul pole.
"Shoot, when they walked Kolton to get to Hunter, I was thinking, 'Oh buckets!' " Stenberg said. "That's not the guy to be pitching to and I just wish that ball would have been fair. It would've been a three-run bomb. That ball was pretty well-hit."
MHS won the five-inning, non-region game 4-1 and again scored all of its runs in one inning. Senior Caleb Fornshell led the Magicians with two RBIs and finished 1-for-3. Grant Larson gave up four hits in the win and struck out four. DHS junior Mitch Mehrer was the losing pitcher.