Vistas reach championship in home tourney

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot Vistas’ Lofton Klabunde (7) rounds third base and heads home in a semifinal contest against Inside Pitch Saturday evening at Corbett Field in Minot.

Leading Inside Pitch 6-4 in the top of the seventh inning, the Minot Vistas were one out away from punching their ticket to the title match. Cade South, however, had other ideas, as he lifted a three-run home run to deep left field.

“That kid got all of it,” Vistas coach Pat Arntson said. “So, I don’t feel like they got a cheap one. He hammered that ball. Our guys kind of got quiet there for a minute, even when our first batter got out (in the seventh inning). But, they picked each other up.”

Putting the home run behind them, the Vistas rallied in the seventh and won 8-7 on a walk-off single from Easton Bennett.

“(Alex) Schimke had a good at-bat and got the trying run in,” Bennett said. “(Their pitcher) threw me a fastball down the middle and I squared it up good. I knew he was going to give me something early and I didn’t want to get late in the count when he could throw me some junk, so I was looking fastball early.”

The Vistas came into their home tournament at Corbett Field looking to snap four-game losing streak. Two days later, the Vistas have rattled off four straight wins and find themselves in the Heilman’s Performance Invitational championship game this afternoon.

Alex Eisen/MDN Vistas’ Kyler Stenberg scores the go-ahead run against Inside Pitch in Minot’s first game they played and won 5-3 on Saturday.

On Saturday, Minot bested Inside Pitch (Regina, Saskatchewan) twice in the last game of the group stage, 5-3, and in the semifinal, 8-7. Proving once again for Minot, that there is no place like Corbett. The Vistas are 9-1 at home this season.

“They knew what was at stake,” Arntson said, acknowledging he didn’t have to tell his team anything going into their final at-bats in the seventh inning down 7-6 in the semifinal. “We had played so well all tournament that to not be in the final day playing Pierre (Post 8) would have been kind of sour.”

The opening inning of the semifinal contest generated six runs. Inside Pitch jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a ball misplayed in the outfield and an RBI double from Riley Schick. But, the Vistas responded with a two-run double by Derek Bartsch and a two-run home run by Johnny Tubbs that just cleared the fence in left field.

The home run wasn’t taken too kindly, as Inside Pitch pitcher Jayden Lorenz hit Tubbs with the first pitch in his next at-bat in the third inning. Tubbs gave a stare out to the mound and the Vistas next batter, Conor Taney, made Lorenz pay with a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-2.

Lofton Klabunde added an RBI single through the left side of the infield an inning later.

Patrolling the hill for the Vistas, Carson Tonini settled in after giving up the two quick runs in the opening frame. He threw three scoreless innings before Talon Amyotte got to him in the fifth for a two-out RBI single, 6-3.

Tonini kept the Vistas three-run lead intact in the sixth inning by striking out a pair of batters with runners on second and third base. Klabunde took to the mound in the seventh inning with the 6-3 lead.

After two walks and two strikeouts, a misplayed ball in left field scored one run. Then, needing that final out, South launched his three-run home run south to left field to galvanize his teammates, who stormed out of the dugout to meet him at home plate. Inside Pitch moved into the lead 7-6.

“I looked up and saw it was in the trees, but I knew we had more at-bats left,” Vistas’ Alex Schimke said. “We had to get back to our sticks and put up a fight. Try to get one more (run) back.”

Minot got more than one run, they got two. The Vistas clawed back and won with four one-out singles and an error. Taney, Kyler Stenberg and Tonini loaded the bases. Then, Schimke reached after a lengthy at-bat on a ball that bounced off the third baseman playing up in the grass.

“I fouled a couple pitches off and wasn’t going to give in,” Schimke said. “I just hit the ball hard.”

Schimke’s eight pitch at-bat tied the game. Meanwhile, the next batter Bennett drilled the first pitch he saw back up the middle to send the Vistas to the championship game.

Both teams finished with 10 hits and three errors. Bennett led the way going 3-for-5 with an RBI. Bartsch and Tubbs each had a hit and two RBIs.

Sixth inning rally locked up top seed for the Vistas

The Vistas earned the No. 1 seed going into the semifinals by beating Inside Pitch, 5-3, in the first game played at Corbett Field on Saturday. With the win, the Vistas went undefeated in the group stage by beating each of their three opponents once.

The early match on Saturday was more grueling than the convincing shutout wins, 12-0 and 10-0, the Vistas picked up on Friday. Trailing 3-1 in the fourth inning, Minot got a bases loaded walk from Paxten Wahlund to get within a run.

Then, in the bottom of the sixth inning, the bottom of the Vistas’ batting order set the table. A lead-off triple by the No. 7 hitter Tonini and a walk to No. 8 Stenberg set up the go-ahead, two-run double by lead-off hitter Bennett. Another double by Klabunde down the left field line scored Bennett.

“He had thrown a lot of pitches,” Arntson said about Inside Pitch pitcher Chris Messer. “So, he started to tire a little bit. Our guys swung at some pitches kind of more in the zone that they could get to and made him pay. It worked out.”

Messer had racked up a lot of pitches because he had struck out 13 batters in six innings of work. Yet, he was still dealt the loss.

“Their pitcher was tough,” Arntson said. “I had seen him this fall, up at a Canadian college in Alberta. So, we had seen up to 90 (mph) up there. I don’t know what he was today, but it was definitely firmer than what our guys are used to or would have liked.”

Minot starting pitcher Broden Wunderlich went six innings before Creighton Rudolph stepped in and got the final three outs in the seventh inning for the save.

Both teams committed two errors and Minot outhit Inside Pitch, 6-4.

Tonini went 2-for-3 as the only Vistas with two hits and Bennett was the only player to collect multiple RBIs with his game-winning double.

“My first two at-bats I struck out and knew I had to get my hands going,” Bennett said. “So, I keep my hands a little closer to my body, looked for a fastball and drove it the other way.”

The Vistas will play Pierre Post 8 in the championship match this afternoon at Corbett Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. but depends on the conclusion of the third-place game taking place beforehand.

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