Minot Vistas blank Williston twice for sweep
Superb pitching made for a relatively easy Wednesday evening for the Minot Vistas.
Starting pitchers Carson Tonini and Alex Schimke combined for 14 scoreless innings in a pair of 8-0 and 6-0 American Legion Class AA shutout wins over the Williston Keybirds at Corbett Field in Minot.
The doubleheader marked the eighth and ninth games for the Vistas over the last five days.
If there was any fatigue, Minot managed to hide it well.
“We just went five days in a row and we were better at the end, that’s the weird part,” Vistas head coach Pat Arntson said. “I don’t know if we were mentally thinking about how many games we were about to play. But, when we started this stretch, we weren’t this team.”
The more games Minot played, the better they got.
“It’s hard to be locked in that long for that many days,” Arntson said. “We know these kids are tired. (The coaches) are tired too and we aren’t even playing. So we get it, but we still have to hold them to a (high) standard and they have done a really good job these last few games.”
The middle of Minot’s batting order was lethal to start the first game on Wednesday.
The Vistas erupted for eight runs after the first three innings with No. 3 hitter Kyler Stenberg and cleanup batter Schimke each collecting three RBIs. Stenberg made contact with an RBI double and a two-run single, while Schimke picked up an RBI single and drilled a two-run home run over the left field fence.
Table setters at the top of the lineup in Chase Burke and Derek Nygaard each nabbed an RBI as well with groundouts.
Tonini didn’t need all of that run support in the grand scheme of things. The right-handed hurler tossed a three-hitter with eight strikeouts.
Tonini only needed five pitches to close out the seventh and final inning to clinch the 8-0 victory.
“We had a long weekend in Pierre (South Dakota) and had games yesterday, so it was big for Carson (Tonini) and I to go the full distance in both games,” Schimke said. “Now, we will have more arms in the bullpen for Friday’s counter games. And our defense played great behind us. You just gotta trust them.”
The nightcap was much of the same. Instead of Tonini dominating, Schimke took over on the mound with seven more scoreless innings.
Schimke allowed six hits and racked up five strikeouts.
“We didn’t have to do much else,” Arntson said. “They just kept attacking the zone and didn’t give away many freebies. (Williston) hit some balls hard, but when there aren’t guys on because of mistakes, it’s difficult to score a lot. So, it’s great we got 14 zeros on a day when we didn’t need many.”
Minot slowly built up a 5-0 lead across the second, third and fourth frames with six different players recording a hit. The biggest knock was a two-run single by Nygaard in the fourth inning.
Stenberg smacked an RBI double off the left field fence for his fourth RBI of the doubleheader to push the final score to 6-0.
“I’m sure they are really tired, but we look really good right now,” Arntson said. “So, I guess I don’t see (the fatigue) at this moment. Maybe it will catch up with us, but we get a day off tomorrow… and a lighter schedule for the rest of the week.”
The Vistas travel down to Bismarck on Friday for a critical rivalry conference doubleheader against the Governors.
Perhaps a hidden benefit to playing nine games in five days is the players and coaches get a feel for what the state tournament will be like when they will take on a grueling slate of high-pressure games with limited time to rest and recover.
The Vistas feel prepared for what lies ahead.
“That’s the thing, we are deep,” Arntson said. “I think we had six arms available out of the bullpen today. Guys that were fresh and ready. And we didn’t have to use any… Going into the trip, we were like, ‘How are we going to do this?’ And then you go through it and we have extra, and guys threw really well for us. That’s really nice.
“We don’t have to run guys out there and just let them wear it. If they aren’t pitching well, we can go to somebody else. Rather than saying, ‘Sorry, as long as your arm doesn’t hurt, you have to pitch.'”
Minot has two more home doubleheaders at Corbett Field this summer against Fargo Post 400 on July 18 and the Governors again on July 22. There are also four road twinbills sprinkled in before the state tournament starts July 26 in Grand Forks.
Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.