WEST FARGO - Casey Quinlan acknowledged a subconscious experience after turning in a career-high 18-strikeout performance to lead Fargo to an 11-1 win Wednesday.
The Minot Vistas also appeared partially out of focus as they swung and missed over and over to drop into the losers bracket of the American Legion Class A State Tournament at Veterans Memorial Field.
No. 5 Minot (24-21) isn't likely to face quite that caliber of pitching in today's loser-out game against No. 10 Mandan at 11 a.m.
"I don't go out there and try to strike everybody out," Quinlan said. "I just go out there and try to make good pitches and let my defense help me, and I just kept pitching and you just get into that groove and you just kind of don't really know what's going on."
No 4. Fargo (38-17) helped its ace with three home runs, including a grand slam, and advanced to play No. 1 West Fargo at 5 p.m. tonight.
Quinlan walked a batter and hit another to aid Minot with a first-inning run. The Fargo Davies graduate still had three strikeouts in the opening frame and only got stronger as he fanned the side in the second inning. Quinlan was routinely ahead in the count with his fastball and caught a few Vistas with curveballs and changeups. A six-run seventh inning for Fargo forced the 10-run rule and Quinlan finished with multiple strikeouts in each frame.
"He was on, threw well," Vistas coach Todd Larson said. "We didn't make any adjustments. The harder he threw, the harder we tried swinging it. That doesn't work so well."
Minot slugger Austin Berntson finished 0 for 4 with four strikeouts and was one of six Vistas with multiple strikeouts. Grant Larson and Brady Lampert struck out three times apiece.
"He was just constantly hitting the strike zone and made us work," Berntson said. "He just kept blowing pitches by us and we just never timed up his fastball. We just don't see many left-handers throwing that hard, at least in North Dakota."
Quinlan, who will pitch for Neosho County Community College in Chanute, Kansas, walked three batters and hit two as he improved to 7-3. It was Fargo's fourth win over the Vistas in five games this season and the first time the ace faced Minot.
"I'm not gonna second-guess myself throwing a 2 or a 3 - who could probably win as well - and then wish I'd gone with my 1 and stayed in the winners bracket," Fargo coach Luke Rustad said. "So I just decided, Casey, they haven't seen him. Let's throw him and then also too, hopefully, if we're still around later in the tournament, he has a little more rest so we can use him again."
Minot starter Hunter Oothoudt (3-4) gave up two runs in the second inning and another in the fourth before being replaced by Marcus Quist. The typical late-game reliever got Ryan Smith to fly out to end the inning, but gave up two runs in the fifth inning. Aaron Green's solo home run over the tall ivy wall in left field was followed by a sacrifice fly from Gunnar Linstaedt.
Quist quickly retired the side in the sixth, but loaded the bases to start the seventh and was pulled for Caleb Fornshell. Lincoln Voss hit a grand slam and Linstaedt followed with a solo shot.
"It was a fastball and the pitch right before was high and coach said, 'Leave the high ones up, just look for one in your zone,' and he threw one in my zone and I just put a good swing on it," Voss said.
Quist and Fornshell primarily pitched in closing roles through the regular season, but Larson opted for the high-energy Quist earlier than usual.
"He's all arms and legs coming at ya and he got us a couple innings of good pitching," the 15th-year coach said. "Unfortunately, there in the seventh, he got the bases loaded."
Berntson (5-2) is Minot's most consistent pitcher and likely to get the start today, though Chandler Jacob and Shawn Danielson are being considered.
"It doesn't matter who we pitch," Larson said. "We've gotta score runs. Hopefully it's a learning experience for our kids so we can bounce back tomorrow or we turn the uniforms in."
Tim Chapman covers the Vistas and Minot High School athletics. Follow him on