The Minot High baseball team entered Thursday's doubleheader with Dickinson with an opportunity to grab a share of the West Region regular-season title.
Instead, the Magicians could fall as far as fifth in the standings after dropping an 8-2 decision to the Midgets at Corbett Field in both teams' region finale. The loss snapped Minot's six-game region winning streak and clinched the regular-season crown for Dickinson.
"We've been playing pretty loose these past couple weeks," Dickinson coach Pete Dobitz said. "When you play a loose game defensively, pitchingwise and offensively, good things can happen."
Minot High senior Brady Lampert shatters his bat during the series opener against Dickinson on Thursday at Corbett Field. The Magicians lost both games and could fall as far as fifth in the West Region standings as a result.
Dickinson celebrates Cole Anderson’s two-run home run in the first inning of the series opener.
The loss is a costly one for the Magicians (16-11 overall, 9-5 region) as Century leapfrogs them for second place in the standings with their win over Jamestown. Mandan also moves ahead of Minot and could grab the third seed with a win over St. Mary's on Saturday. Bismarck's win over Williston pulls it even with the Magicians in the standings.
"We wanted to go out on a better note than this," Minot junior Grant Larson said. "We know what we have to work on and we know we can play."
The Midgets (20-4, 11-3) wasted little time getting to Minot starting pitcher Demitry Zafra. With two outs and a runner on third, Dickinson's Cole Anderson launched a 1-0 offering off the right-field scoreboard to give the Midgets an early 2-0 advantage. Anderson finished 2-for-3 with four RBIs.
Dickinson added to its lead in the third without recording a hit. The Midgets plated four runs on three walks, two wild pitches, one hit by pitch, one dropped third strike and one Minot error.
Minot coach Pete Stenberg pulled Zafra after the right-hander failed to record an out four batters into the third inning. Dickinson's Dylan Skabo led off the inning by advancing to first on a wild pitch following a strikeout. Zafra then walked Mike McChesney, hit Luke Herauf and walked Anderson with the bases loaded. Zafra exited the game allowing six runs on three hits, walking two and striking out one.
"Our pitchers have to throw strikes for us to be successful," Minot assistant coach Todd Larson said. "It seemed like every guy we put out there struggled with their command. We've got some tired arms and we'll be able to fix that up before we get back to the diamond on Thursday."
Senior Chandler Jacob relieved Zafra with the bases loaded and no outs. His first and third pitches went to the backstop, scoring McChesney and Herauf. Anderson scored on a two-out error at second base to put Dickinson in front 6-0.
"It set up for a big game on paper, but Dickinson came out and scored those early runs and put up a four spot in the third inning," Todd Larson said. "We certainly didn't have good swings against (Dickinson pitcher Mark) Erickson. I give (Dickson) credit, they came out and played and we didn't play so well today."
Jacob limited Dickinson to two runs on seven hits over the final four innings, striking out six, but the deficit was too large for the Magicians to overcome.
Minot recorded at least a hit in each of the last six innings, but stranded eight runners - four in scoring position. The Magicians scored a run in the third off an RBI single by Alex Mack through the right side. They recorded their second run in the sixth when Larson scored on a wild pitch. Larson went 3-for-4 with a run scored in the opener.
Mark Erickson went the distance on the mound for the Midgets, allowing two runs on nine hits, striking out six and walking one.
Dickinson didn't let up in the nightcap, again plating runs in the first inning. After an RBI groundout by Lucas Jones, Herauf blasted a solo home run well clear of the right-field fence to give the Midgets a 2-0 lead.
Dickinson added four runs in the third, taking advantage of Minot's inconsistent hitting. The Midgets had one hit in the frame and scored on two wild pitches.
Minot used four pitchers in the five-inning game. They combined to walk six batters and hit four others. Senior Shawn Danielson pitched the first two innings and suffered the loss. He surrendered two runs on three hits, striking out two. Alec Rice lasted just a third of an inning after walking three and hit two more in consecutive pitches. Larson relieved Rice and pitched into the fourth before Hunter Duttenhefer closed the game.
The Midgets needed just one pitcher in the nightcap. Dylan Wallner threw a no-hitter, striking out nine and walking four.
"We might have been too selective at the plate as a team," Grant Larson said. "We weren't jumping on that first pitch that we liked. We have to have a plan up at the plate and stick to it."
The region tournament begins Thursday in Dickinson.
Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.