At the start of the season, runs were at a premium for the Minot Vistas American Legion baseball team.
The same can't be said now as the season approaches its halfway point. The Vistas again put the bat on the ball Monday against Mandan, scoring 14 runs in a 14-6 victory in the opening game of a doubleheader at Corbett Field.
Minot averaged 2.67 runs per game in its first six contests and was shut out twice. Since then, the Vistas have plated 9.77 runs per game and have scored more than 10 runs in seven contests. Minot picked up the sweep with a 4-1 victory in the finale.
Minot’s Hunter Duttenhefer went 2-for-3 with two RBIs in the first game of a doubleheader against Mandan on Monday at Corbett Field.
"I think it's being patient, waiting for that one pitch versus getting yourself out," Minot coach Todd Larson said. "The kids have worked hard in practice and they're starting to see the results."
The Vistas (10-10) struck first in the opening frame. Alex Mack singled through the left side, stole second and came around to score on an RBI single by Austin Eggl down the left-field line.
An RBI groundout by Mandan's Parker Harm in the second drew the Chiefs even, but Minot responded with six runs in the bottom half to grab a 7-1 lead. Mandan was undone by three errors in the frame, none bigger than when second baseman Garrett Murphy dropped a routine fly ball off the bat of Trever Ringoen that would have been the second out of the inning. Jake Magnuson followed with a flyout to first, which would have ended the frame.
The Vistas scored all six runs with two outs, aided by Mandan's first error. Ringoen reached second on an errant pickoff attempt by Chiefs starting pitcher Jared Zittleman, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a balk.
Back-to-back RBI doubles by Mack and Brady Lampert prolonged the inning and Grant Larson followed with an RBI single to center field. Mandan's third error - an off-target throw from the outfield - scored two more.
Mack led the Vistas with three hits, going 3-for-4 with a double, RBI and three runs scored.
"We're swinging it pretty good right now," Mack said. "We've had a lot of hits. We're seeing the ball well and getting balls in play and getting runners on base."
Much like their last meeting in Mandan, the Chiefs fell behind early only to make a game of it. Minot starting pitcher Travis Walker struggled with his command in the fourth, walking the first two batters on eight pitches before giving up a two-run double to Alex Weiand. Walker hit the next two Chiefs and was pulled for Dalton Cooper. Matt Ziemann doubled home two off Cooper to close within 7-6.
The feeling of deja vu ran through the minds of the Vistas.
"We talked about it," Larson said. "Things are going well for us and kids are staying focused and that's the difference tonight."
Minot never surrendered its lead, scoring the final five runs, all in the fifth inning. The Vistas took advantage of inconsistent Mandan pitching. The Chiefs used four pitchers in six innings and the first three combined to walk 13 batters.
"We just have to throw strikes earlier in the count," Mandan coach Ryne Jungling said. "We were in way too many 2-1, 3-1 counts and you can't compete when that's the case."
Murphy relieved Logan McDowall with no outs and the bases loaded in the fourth. He walked in a run before a triple play got the Chiefs out of the inning. Magnuson flied out to center field and Hunter Duttenhefer was thrown out trying to advance to third. Cooper was called out when umpires ruled he left third base early when tagging up.
Murphy wasn't so fortunate in the fifth as he walked four of the first five hitters in the frame and threw three wild pitches - all resulting in Minot runs. Eggl walked with the bases loaded and Duttenhefer singled him home two batters later to cap the scoring.
Cooper notched the win in relief, allowing one hit over 2 2/3 innings.
"He's been real good for us," Larson said. "He picked up the win on Saturday, another win today. He's certainly earning his innings and doing a good job when he's called upon."
The Vistas travel to Devils Lake today at 5:30 p.m.
Mike Kraft covers the Minot Vistas and racing during the summer. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.