Heavy hitters

Minot Vistas overpowering their competition

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot Vistas’ Johnny Tubbs makes contact with a pitch in an American Legion baseball game against Williston on Friday at Corbett Field.

The quickest way to put runs on the scoreboard includes a jog around all the bases. The Minot Vistas have been doing a lot of that this season.

With two more long balls on Friday against Williston, the Vistas have racked up 16 home runs this season. That’s seven more than they had last season.

“We have a lot of guys that can put a good swing on the ball,” said first baseman Lofton Klabunde, who hit a walk-off home run in the first game against Williston.

Clearing the fence has been contagious with seven different Vistas launching home runs, with four of them doing it multiple times. Leading the pack are Johnny Tubbs and Easton Bennett with four home runs each. Klabunde is sitting on three and Derek Bartsch has hit two.

Klabunde rattled off those same numbers when asked about the team’s power. He knew exactly where he stood in the rankings.

Alex Eisen/MDN Vistas first baseman Lofton Klabunde stands in the batter’s box in an American Legion baseball game played earlier this season.

“It’s always a competition to see who can hit one, who can hit the most and who can hit them the farthest,” Klabunde said. “Can’t let anyone win.”

It’s a friendly rivalry that, at this rate, might just come down to the final swing.

While the heavy hitters at the top of the list are also at the top of the lineup. The competition has also enticed the likes of Noah Tate and Paxten Wahlund to get in on the action. Wahlund hit his first career home run on Friday.

Don’t count Conor Taney out of this home run derby yet either. The slugging shortstop with one home run is the only collegiate player on the roster, from Presentation College (South Dakota), and is one of three players to have hit a home run this season and last season with the Vistas. The other two players being Bennett and Bartsch.

Looking past the long ball, the extra base hits that stay in the field of play have been just as timely.

“We have some guys that have some real juice and we encourage it,” Vistas coach Pat Arntson said. “Like when you are in hitter’s counts, swing. We don’t want a bunch of singles… It takes a lot of those to change the score. So, we encourage our guys when they get the right pitches to try and change the score. And do it in a hurry.”

The Vistas have 49 doubles and eight triples this year in 31 games. More significantly, the run generation has been pretty evenly spread out with 10 different players notching 10 or more RBIs.

“We never know who we are getting it from,” Arntson said. “But, it seems to be no matter if it’s the top five or the bottom four (of the lineup), somebody is always hitting in those two groups. It’s always different people. It’s nice because then it gives you reasons to consistently give guys opportunities to hit.”

With lethal bats littered throughout the lineup, Arntson hasn’t had to shake up the batting order that much.

“One through five has been pretty consistent, other than if somebody has been banged up or something,” Arntson said. “After that, six through nine is usually the same few guys cycling through based on who is pitching because all those guys in the bottom four spots pitch too.”

Before looking too far ahead, Minot has eight more games to wrap up the regular season. That includes one more home doubleheader against Bismarck on Thursday.

Collective power hitting, plus potent pitching, has the Vistas bolstering a 22-9 record and looking dangerous with the state tournament fast approaching. Now, just a week and a half away.

Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.