First wins slip away

Vistas swept by West Fargo in close contests

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot Vistas shortstop Alex Schimke prepares to catch the ball and tag out a West Fargo runner Tuesday evening in an American Legion baseball game at Corbett Field in Minot.

The Minot Vistas had their first wins of the season in sight against the West Fargo Patriots Tuesday evening at Corbett Field. Despite leading 3-1 in the sixth inning in both contests of a doubleheader, the Vistas dropped to 0-4 overall on the season with a nine-inning 5-3 loss in Game 1 and a 4-3 loss in the nightcap.

“It was pretty much identical to our first doubleheader against (Fargo) Post 2,” Vistas head coach Pat Arntson said. “We are just not getting the big plays at the right moments. And, so far, we haven’t been pushing the right buttons as a staff either to get the right guy on the mound at the right time… We have had opportunities. There have been multiple innings where we left 4-5 plays on the table to allow the other team to extend the game or win the game. So, I think 0-4 is appropriate at this time, as much as I don’t want it to be.”

An error-filled first inning allowed the Vistas to plate the first run of the game. Throwing and fielding miscues put runners on first and third, and an overthrow from the catcher to second base on a steal attempt brought in the runner standing on third.

West Fargo evened the score two innings later on an RBI single to right center field. But, the Vistas countered with two runs in the bottom half of the third inning without needing a clutch hit, as Nickolas Murphy and starting pitcher Paxten Wahlund were issued bases loaded walks.

The Vistas’ two-run lead held up until the top of the sixth inning. Down to their final four outs, West Fargo’s Brady Beyl launched a two-run home run over the fence in left field to ultimately force extra innings.

Alex Eisen/MDN Vistas pitcher Paxten Wahlund throws a pitch Tuesday against West Fargo at Corbett Field.

Minot grounded into a double play to end the seventh and stranded a lead-off double from Jack Plemel in the eighth.

The Patriots broke the deadlock in the ninth with runners on the corners and one out. Braden Jacobson found a hole in the left side of the infield for an RBI single on his fourth hit of the game and an errant throw trying to complete a double play brought in another run.

“The effort is there, it’s just the execution,” Arntson said. “We got to be more expectant of the ball and making the big plays. Sometimes we seem a little surprised when it comes our way, and just assume something else is going to happen. If we get a little more prepared and have a higher expectation of getting the ball, then we won’t get so caught off guard.”

Minot got the tying run to the plate in the bottom half, but were held scoreless for a sixth consecutive inning to fall 5-3.

In Game 2, West Fargo struck first with an RBI sacrifice fly from Drake Flesche in the top of the first.

The Vistas saved a run in an unorthodox fashion in the top of the third inning. Unable to get the ball out of his glove, second baseman Johnny Tubbs couldn’t complete the flip to first base for the third out. He fired the ball over to third base instead to pick off a retreating runner in Flesche. Third baseman Carson Tonini couldn’t pick the ball out the turf and it rolled straight past the coach’s box. Flesche got up and took off, but Tonini chased down the loose ball and gunned down Flesche at home plate.

Following the stellar defensive recovery, Tonini jacked a solo home run to left field the next half inning to tie the game at 1-1. That broke an eight-inning scoreless streak for Minot in the doubleheader.

With two more runs in the fourth, Minot matched the 3-1 cushion that they had in Game 1. Wahlund provided an RBI double to right center to bring in Creighton Rudolph from first base and a fielding error brought in the other run.

Minot’s two-run lead didn’t last, again. A wild pitch got the Patriots back within a run in the sixth and, down to their final out, Jacobson came through with an RBI single back up the middle. Jake Faircloth then pushed the Patriots to the lead, 4-3, with another RBI single to conclude the seventh.

Minot left two runners on in the bottom half to fall 4-3.

“I don’t think it would be better to never have a chance to win the game, but yes, it does sting more when you are in control late and don’t seal it,” Arntson said.

The Minot Vistas next doubleheader is Thursday in Dickinson.

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