The Minot Vistas left for Omaha, Neb., with an 8-2 record. The team returned to Minot 8-7. Through five losses in as many games, the Vistas were constantly reminded that they weren't in North Dakota anymore.
That wasn't necessarily a bad thing for a team with enough talent and depth to make a serious run at the American Legion Class A state title in August. Playing five quality teams from five states in four days gave Minot more than enough to reflect on and improve on.
"We learned that being down there you've got to play high-level baseball all the time and you can't take an inning off," Vistas second baseman Marcus Quist said.
Minot will try end the slide when it hosts struggling Mandan (3-12) for one game at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Corbett Field.
Sharpness in the field will be a focal point as the Vistas played just one error-free game at the Decker Sports College World Series Tournament. The team made multiple errors in the other four games, including four errors each against Woodward, Okla., and New Brighton, Minn.
Minot returned home Sunday evening and returned to practice Monday afternoon. Quist said the Vistas went through their usual infield and outfield drills, but with a greater emphasis on intensity.
"I feel like we weren't always ready to play," Quist said. "We didn't play very well."
The Vistas have 30 games remaining in the regular season, which leaves plenty of time for coach Todd Larson to evaluate his pitching staff before the postseason.
Chander Jacob, 16, was the youngest starter for Minot on the trip and delivered one of the more impressive performances. Jacob (0-0) held New Brighton to four runs through six innings of a nine-inning, 6-5 loss.
"(Those teams) take advantage of everything you do wrong," Jacob said. "You had to be a lot smarter and pay attention to the little things.
"I threw a lot of strikes and my defense made plays behind me. Whenever I'd give up a run, the offense would come right back and keep us close in the game. We played at a high level."
That first loss stretched late into Wednesday evening and the Vistas played back-to-back games Thursday beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Minot dropped those games by 6-3 and 3-2 final scores and gained morning-game experience, which may help at the state tournament. Jacob said the team adjusted to the higher level of play, but realized that intensity alone won't lead to postseason titles.
"We played with a lot more intensity than we usually do," Jacob said. "If we didn't play as intense, we would've gotten our butts kicked. I think it helped the younger kids too to see what level baseball is played at."
Offensively, Minot wasn't anemic, but the team was unable to match the opposition's output. The Vistas were outscored 31-20 during the trip, but managed to stay close in each game despite 14 total errors.
Six players had two-RBI games, including Minot Metros catcher Braden Lach, who was called up from the junior Legion team because the Vistas' top two catchers didn't make the trip.
"We saw a lot more offspeed than we've seen," Quist said. "Coming back up here I think we'll be better hitters."