The Minot Vistas' 19-year-olds raved about the importance of returning to Corbett Field and their play backed up their excitement Monday.
Final-year player Austin Berntson hit a grand slam and pitched a four-hitter against Wahpeton to lead Minot to a 12-2 American Legion baseball win in the team's first game at the ballpark since the 2011 flood.
The Vistas won the second game 16-7 and Berntson again led the team at the plate. He finished the nightcap with three RBIs for a total of seven RBIs on the evening.
"I was nervous as I could've been," said Berntson, who also pitches for Minot State University. "Like my first college start, I was just as nervous as that as I was out here. It's just the feeling of this field, I think."
Berntson's grand slam was a part of a seven-run second inning for Minot (3-1). Wahpeton pitcher Brock Lingen struggled to find the zone after his team took a 2-0 lead and walked four batters in the inning.
Marcus Quist and Brock Krueger, also 19-year-olds, each singled to be the fifth and sixth straight Vistas to reach base after the inning started with two outs. Berntson followed with an opposite-field shot, which cleared the left field-fence at about the 330-foot mark.
"I didn't think I actually hit a home run, but I guess it might be some old-man strength from being (with the team) for three years, but I honestly didn't think it was a home run," Berntson said.
Quist and Krueger - Nos. 2 and 3 in the lineup, respectively - finished with two singles and two RBIs apiece. Caleb Fornshell, a 2013 Minot High School graduate, hit a single, sacrifice fly and reached base three more times on walks from his leadoff position.
"We had some big at-bats," 15th-year Vistas coach Todd Larson said. "That grand-slam hit opposite field, that's good to see from a 19-year-old. I thought he threw pretty well after the first inning of game one. I'm happy coming out and getting the sweep. It's just exciting to be back in our home field."
The Vistas host a non-region doubleheader against East Grand Forks (Minn.) at 5:30 p.m. tonight.
Minot added four more runs in the fifth inning of the first game and Fornshell hit an RBI single in the sixth inning to score Hunter Oothoudt and give Minot the run-rule win.
Wahpeton (3-3) finished with five errors in the first game, three more in the second and the visiting pitching staff combined to walk 24 batters through both games.
"We couldn't throw strikes, whatsoever," Wahpeton coach Chris Kappes said. "You don't throw strikes and then it gets your defense on their heels a little bit. Then when the ball is put in, we're lackadaisical and then we boot the ball, throw it around - just poor on the defensive side of the ball."
Jacob Holmen threw six innings of relief to earn the game-two win. Starting pitcher Chandler Jacob was battling back spasms and gave up two runs before being pulled after the opening inning.
Holmen struggled in the third inning, giving up three runs after Wahpeton led off with three singles. He settled in after that and held Wahpeton to one more run through the final four innings.
In the sixth inning, Wahpeton left runners on second and third. Holmen tagged first to get the second out on a grounder and struck out Tyler Gripentrog for the the third out.
"I thought Jacob did a great job and really threw strikes," Larson said. "He kept us in the ballgame."
Casey Ryan, the Vistas' fourth 19-year-old, played the second game and was one of three Minot players with multiple RBIs. Ryan's RBI double in the sixth inning started the scoring in a six-run frame, which allowed Minot to pull away.
"Two wins, it will definitely give us a lot of momentum," Berntson said. "We've got 10 games this week and we need all the momentum we can get 'cause once you start playing those 10 games in a row those last couple you start (getting tired) and your body aches and you just gotta find something that'll make you want to play through it."
Larson expects to use Jacob in the outfield and at the plate tonight because the back spasms only bothered him on the mound. Brady Lampert was pulled from his spot at third base in the first game because of a knee injury, which is not considered to be serious.