Stenberg, Tonini lift Minot Vistas to another HP Invitational final
Waiting in the on-deck circle, Kyler Stenberg acknowledged his recent mini slump while chatting with one of the assistant coaches for the Minot Vistas.
“I haven’t hit the ball well in my last five at-bats,” he said.
Stenberg promptly stepped to the plate and belted a two-run home run. A smiling Stenberg was greeted by a Super Soaker spraying and a hefty gold chain after crossing home plate.
“Ended up getting a 2-2 count and the kid threw a fastball that I was able to jump it,” Stenberg said. “Mother Nature helped out a little bit with the wind to push it over.”
Stenberg’s highlight reel continued with a full extension diving catch two innings later to aid starting pitcher Carson Tonini.
The Minot State product was dominant on the mound. Tonini tossed a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts, as the Vistas cruised to a 10-0 six-inning victory over East Grand Forks in the semifinals of the Heilman’s Performance Invitational at Corbett Field in Minot.
Tonini was unrelenting with his arsenal of fastballs.
“(Tonini) mixed in his change up when he needed to, but he didn’t need it a lot,” Vistas head coach Pat Arntson said. “He didn’t need to dive too deep into his repertoire.”
The Vistas return to the championship game of their home tournament for a third straight season. Minot won the inaugural invitational in 2017 and lost to the Bismarck Governors, 7-2, in the championship game last season.
Bismarck defeated Pierre Post 8, 12-2 in five innings, in the other semifinal to set up a title game rematch at 1 p.m. this afternoon.
Helping Minot get back to the final game of the tournament, Tonini was locked in from the first pitch on Saturday. He threw three straight strikes out of the gate for an overpowering punch out.
It would be the first of many.
“I was pounding the zone and making competitive pitches,” Tonini said. “I think me and (catcher Dylan) Vigested had some good sequences…”
Chiming in and interrupting the post-game interview, Vistas shortstop Alex Schimke said, “It was all Viggy.”
Tonini, playing along with Schimke, continued: “Yeah, it was really just Viggy. It was all Viggy.”
The only run Tonini technically needed came in the first inning when Schimke sent an RBI double over the head of right fielder Kaden Robinson.
Minot, however, didn’t let up there.
The Vistas scored six runs in the second inning. Dylan Buchanan led things off with a double off the top of the left field fence. Derek Nygaard brought him home with another double.
Following an RBI single by Kaleb Bellew and a bases loaded walk to Stenberg, Jack Plemel found the gap in left center for a bases-clearing triple to put the Vistas ahead 7-0.
“We will never turn down more runs,” Arntson said. “Sometimes it’s tough when you got a guy out there that can really chuck it and your offense knows it probably won’t need that many (runs). Sometimes they wait around to see what we need. So, it was huge for our guys to jump out with seven in the first two innings.”
Stenberg dusted off his cold bat in the fourth inning with a two-run home run, 9-0. A generous summer breeze helped usher the ball out.
Tonini started to struggle with his command in the sixth inning. After walking two East Grand Forks batters, Tonini was saved by Stenberg’s diving catch to get out of the inning.
“At that point, everyone could see the (mercy) run-rule was within striking distance,” Arntson said. “If (Stenberg) doesn’t make that play, then they probably score two runs. Then, we have to go to the bullpen and use more arms. So, that’s a massive play.”
Stenberg added: “I knew the wind was going to help me out a little bit by holding it in the air. So, I thought I had an alright chance at it.”
Kade Spencer had both of East Grand Forks hits off Tonini — a single in the second and fifth innings.
Schimke ended the game in the sixth inning. He worked his way from base to base with a hit, an errant throw trying to get the ball back into the infield, a balk and a passed ball.
Minot finished with 10 runs off 10 hits. Eight different Vistas recorded a hit.
Prior to the championship game between the Minot Vistas and the Bismarck Governors at 1 p.m. this afternoon, a pair of consolation games will be played at 8:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. at Corbett Field.
Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.