Not every coach believes there are silver linings in defeat, but the Minot Vistas American Legion baseball team had plenty to be happy about Sunday against Bismarck.
Down to their final at-bat and trailing by three runs to one of the top teams in the state, the Vistas rallied to force extra innings with three runs off Bismarck reliever Dalton Feeney.
But the Governors proved why they're among the North Dakota elite, plating four runs in the 11th for a 10-6 victory at Corbett Field. Bismarck strung together 15 hits with five players recording at least two.
"First and foremost, I'm very proud of how we dug in and competed," Minot coach Todd Larson said. "That's the best team in the state. They haven't lost in state yet. They might be one of the best teams in the upper Midwest. I thought we played extremely hard. We battled. We put some good swings on some good pitchers, especially in the ninth."
The Vistas (20-18 overall, 7-9 state) entered the ninth trailing 6-3, facing a pitcher in Feeney which they couldn't solve through his first 2 2/3 innings of work. Feeney came on in relief of Bismarck starter Kole Bauer with one out in the sixth. He retired the first seven batters he faced, including an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
The Vistas solved Feeney at the right time, stringing together three hits and a walk in the ninth to force extras. Dalton Cooper led off with a walk, and Travis Walker and Jake Magnuson singled following a Hunter Duttenhefer strikeout. Cooper and Walker scored on Magnuson's single to left-center, cutting Bismarck's lead to one.
Chandler Jacob reached on a fielder's choice, bringing Alex Mack to the plate with the tying run on first and two outs. Mack roped a 3-2 pitch to center field for a double, scoring Jacob from first to tie the game.
"We just learned to get our foot down and swing a little earlier because he throws pretty fast," Mack said.
Mack finished 2-for-4 with a game-high three RBIs.
The Vistas had a chance to win it in the 10th when Austin Eggl reached on an error and advanced to second base. But both Trever Ringoen and Duttenhefer grounded out to Trenton Bohan at shortstop to end the inning.
After going down in order in the 10th, the Governors (29-5, 10-0) regained the lead with a four-run 11th. Larson pulled Ringoen in favor of Jacob after Ringoen walked the leadoff batter. Jacob proceeded to plunk the first batter he faced before getting the lead runner out at third on a bunt by Quinn Irey.
Josh Seibel delivered the game-winning RBI with a single to right field, scoring Jared Spooner from second. Jake Brucker added a two-run single to left-center three batters later, and Brandon Gieszler beat out a slow roller to second base to drive in another run.
"It was a close game between two good teams," Bismarck coach Mike Skytland said. "It just came down to the last inning. We finally got a big inning and that was the difference, but (Minot) did a good job of coming back and making a game of it."
Gieszler had a game-high three hits. Hunter Walsh finished 2-for-3 with a solo shot to left field to lead off the sixth.
The loss overshadowed a quality outing by Minot starting pitcher Demitry Zafra. The Southwest Minnesota State commit went eight innings, surrendering four runs -three earned - on nine hits, striking out eight and walking two. He tossed 132 pitches.
"Demitry was outstanding on the hill," Larson said. "Little shaky in the first inning, but as the game went on he got better and better."
Feeney picked up the win in relief, allowing three runs on four hits, striking out seven and walking one.
The teams meet again tonight for another nine-inning contest at Corbett Field. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. It's Military Appreciation Night as all military personnel will receive free admission to the game.
Mike Kraft covers the Minot Vistas and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.