Back for summer baseball

New season, same goal for the new-look Minot Vistas

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot Vistas hurler Blake Smith goes into his follow through after throwing a pitch last season at Corbett Field in Minot.

The Minot Vistas are getting a little tired of watching what could have been. The Class AA North Dakota American Legion baseball team has experienced its fair share of heartbreak recently.

“A bunch of our guys have witnessed three dogpiles in the last four baseball seasons,” Vistas fourth-year head coach Pat Arntson said. “We sat in the dugout and watch those teams. Hopefully, we can use that as motivation to keep pushing our guys forward. A lot of our roster has played in big games, so that familiarity will help. But, eventually, we got to cross that step and get to be the dogpile instead of watching it from the other side.”

The Vistas have lost the last two state championship games by the same margin of three runs: West Fargo defeated Minot, 8-5, in 2018 and Fargo Post 2 defeated Minot, 5-2, in 2017.

Another dogpile happened a week ago when a host of Vistas players suited up for Minot High School and fell victim to Bismarck Century in the NDHSAA Class A state championship game, 7-2.

To rub even more salt in the wound, the last two championship celebrations happened on Minot’s home turf at Corbett Field.

Yet, the lofty goal of winning it all remains the target.

“We know what it takes now,” Minot High graduate and Vistas infielder/pitcher Alex Schimke said. “We know what it takes to be successful and take that next step to win a state title, not just get there.”

Notable Magicians joining Schimke this season with the Vistas include Kyler Stenberg, Derek Nygaard, Blake Smith, Jack Plemel, Dylan Vigested and Chase Burke. A majority of the roster is filled with current or former Minot High athletes.

Logan Merck and Calvin Watkins represent Bishop Ryan. The duo helped the Lions finish seventh at the NDHSAA Class B state tournament last weekend.

“That just makes us want to go a step further and win a state championship,” said Watkins, an infielder/pitcher. “We got a bunch of Minot High kids, athletic kids. We are ready to win something.”

Group everybody together and the general consensus is the Vistas are hungry, have plenty of arms and an abundance of infielders.

“Some guys will have to learn how to play outfield to get them into the lineup a little more,” Arntson said. “But, I think this is our deepest team athletically. We got a lot of guys that can put pressure on the defense. That’s how we want to play with a really aggressive, high-pressure offense.”

The trade-off with such an offense could be a lack of “thump” from previous seasons.

“We just have to be more creative with it,” Arntson said. “Find a way to turn singles into extra base hits. Run a little bit more and create doubles and triples that way.”

On the mound, the Vistas have options. The starting pitching rotation could end up going three or four guys deep with the likes of Smith, Watkins, Dylan Buchanan and Carson Tonini.

“We got a lot of good pitchers,” Watkins said. “I just want to pitch the baseball and do my part as a player.”

The Vistas open the 2019 campaign this afternoon at noon with a doubleheader against Fargo Post 2 at Jack Hoeven Park.

Minot will then host a pair of doubleheaders at Corbett Field against Mandan (June 10) and Dickinson (June 11) early next week.

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

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