Buchanan hits walk-off HR, Vistas win both games against Mandan
Kaleb Bellew slowly inched off third base, just waiting for the green light.
The speedster was 90 feet from home as he watched fellow Minot Vistas teammate Kyler Stenberg walk up to the plate. The Vistas held a 3-1 lead in the opening game of their doubleheader against the Mandan Chiefs on Monday, and Bellew had every intention of providing some extra insurance.
He got his chance when teammate Chase Burke, who was at first, went into an all-out sprint to second base. Mandan catcher Isaac Huettl took the bait and tried to gun him down, giving Bellew a clear path home.
Or so he thought.
Mandan’s second baseman quickly riffled the ball back home in a desperate attempt to stop Bellew, who was now barrelling down the line.
Bellew dove head first, narrowly avoided the outstretched glove of Huettl and tapped home plate.
“Safe!” the umpire hollered after a brief pause.
Bellew’s teammates erupted and met the sophomore with a barrage of high fives as he returned to the dugout without the slightest indication of fatigue after the mad dash.
That was one of many close calls on Monday as the Vistas duked it out with the Mandan Chiefs at Corbett Field. With some stellar pitching and equally impressive batting, the home team secured a pair of wins by scores of 4-3 and 9-8.
“They were pretty tight (games),” Minot head coach Patrick Arntson said. “But we did enough. The last couple games we’ve learned a lot about our team, but we learned them with wins, which is better.”
Alex Schimke drew first blood for Minot in Game 1.
The clutch hitter connected on a pitch from Mandan’s Jacob Weiand in the bottom of the third inning and sent a deep bomb up the middle. The ball sailed past outfielder Connor Seefeld and dropped, allowing two runs to come in before Schimke halted at second base for the double.
After Mandan’s Easton Andreson made it a 2-1 contest with a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth inning, Calvin Watkins countered with a sacrifice fly of his own in the bottom of the frame to push the lead back up to 3-1.
Bellow gave the Vistas a 4-1 edge soon afterwards, and Blake Smith preserved the lead on the mound.
The veteran ace put on a pitching clinic from the opening throw, allowing just one run and four hits in six innings.
“I was just pounding the strike zone,” Smith said. “I just tried to stay in my zone, and I knew that even if (Mandan) could get a piece of the ball my defense behind me would take care of it.”
The Chiefs made it a close game in the top of the seventh inning with Logan Merck and Kyler Stenberg coming in to pitch, but the Vistas held on for the 4-3 win.
Mandan carried that late momentum over to Game 2, though.
Trailing 1-0 in the top of the third inning, Seefeld knotted the score with an RBI single to left field. The Chiefs then added another two runs off a sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded walk to take a 3-1 lead.
But the Vistas responded. Now down 5-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Stenberg got the team off life support with a ball that eluded Mandan’s outfielders and rolled to the fence for an RBI triple.
Schimke then made it a 5-3 contest with an RBI single on the next at-bat, and Dylan Buchanan delivered an RBI single of his own with a hit that ricochet off the glove of Mandan’s Cole Schmidt.
After being gifted an unearned run off a wild pitch to tie the game, the Vistas delivered the exclamation mark thanks to Dylan Vigested. The slugger got every last bit of a pitch and sent it all the way to the warning track in left field for a two-RBI double to give his team a 7-5 lead.
“Once someone got on base, we just started to rally,” Buchanan said. “We all just want to help the team as much as possible. It felt good.”
Now trailing 7-6, the Chiefs nearly spoiled the comeback in the top of the seventh inning with a pair of unearned runs to claim a late 8-7 edge.
Needing a run to stay alive in the bottom of the seventh, Buchanan did one better. With a runner on first base, the heavy-hitter pulled the trigger on a pitch.
The blaring sound of aluminum connecting with the ball rang throughout the field, and the crowd immediately rose to its feet as it became apparent that this one wasn’t coming back. Sure enough, the ball soared over the left-field fence for a walk-off, two-run homer to give Minot a 9-8 victory.
“I was just waiting on a good pitch,” Buchanan said. “I just waited for a fastball, and then I hit it over the fence.”
Buchanan’s teammates met him at home plate and celebrated, putting a massive gold chain around his neck for good measure.
Next up for the Vistas is a doubleheader against Dickinson today at Corbett Field. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Justin Martinez covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.