Minot Vistas dethrone Governors to win HP Invitational
Staring directly at the same unfortunate fate from a season ago, the Minot Vistas flipped a switch Sunday afternoon to prevent history from repeating itself at Corbett Field in Minot.
Trailing 3-0 in the third inning, Minot mounted its comeback.
The Vistas slowly chipped away before a four-run fifth inning turned out to be the decisive blow. Clutch hitting eventually prevailed, while Blake Smith’s arm lasted six innings.
With four wins in three days, the Vistas captured the 2019 Heilman’s Performance Invitational championship.
Minot earned its second home tournament title in three seasons by knocking off the Bismarck Governors, 7-4, in a rematch of last year’s championship game. Bismarck won that contest, 7-2.
“You are always going to have (to work) against Bismarck,” Vistas head coach Pat Arntson said. “Seven runs in six innings against Bismarck, I’m OK with that. That’s not a bad day at all. Our guys are handling their at-bats a little better and we are getting better… We can build off this.”
After Smith opened the title game with a quick 1-2-3 inning on the mound for Minot, Chase Burke got his head rattled with a pitch off the helmet. He shook off the impact and stayed in the game.
Bismarck starting pitcher Paxton Miller continued to struggle with his command but always managed to work out of trouble.
As a result of Minot not taking advantage of the situation, Bismarck scored first in the top of the third inning. Treyton Mattern provided an RBI double and Skyler Reidinger picked up a two-run single to give the Governors a 3-0 lead.
“We didn’t really take that,” Burke said. “We just knew we had a chance the whole game and we fought the whole time. We never gave up.”
The Vistas loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom half. All they got to show for their efforts was a bases-loaded walk to Alex Schimke to cut the deficit to 3-1.
“We didn’t cash in during some situations where we needed to, and that’s usually going to cost you,” Arntson said. “You aren’t typically going to get a lot of opportunities, but we kept pressing.”
Burke was drilled by another pitch in the fourth inning. This time Bismarck paid, as the bases were loaded again to plate Minot’s second run of the game.
The next Vistas batter, Logan Merck, sent a deep shot to right field for an RBI sacrifice fly to knot the score at 3-3. All three runs for Minot had been manufactured without an RBI hit.
Schimke stepped to the plate shortly after with the bases loaded once again but popped out to shallow right field. He slammed his helmet on the turf in frustration.
The Vistas had blown another golden opportunity.
“We had nine hits, and we can show up when we want to,” Vistas catcher Dylan Vigested said. “Sometimes we have to pick it up a little more when guys are in scoring position. We are stroking it decently. But, I bet by the state tournament, we will be hitting the ball very well.”
After surviving two close calls, Miller’s luck ran out in the fifth inning.
The Vistas had six straight players reach base while facing two outs: Vigested singled, Kaleb Bellew walked, Burke singled to bring in a run, Merck reached on a fielding error that scored a run, Kyler Stenberg singled in two runs and Schimke singled.
Add everything up and the four-run inning put Minot ahead 7-3.
Miller was replaced by relief pitcher Mason Leingang after giving up the seventh run. Meanwhile, Minot’s relief pitcher Brock Nesheim was throwing his own separate game in the bullpen.
“Poor Nesheim, he was down there in the pen forever,” Arntson said. “Blake (Smith) gave up that three-spot and started to look like he was losing it; six or seven balls in a row, but got a fly out. Then, he hangs a couple of zeros. Gave up one (run) in the sixth. We told Brock, ‘We are sorry. Blake figured it out.’ Brock understands and that has happened a few times to him.”
The Governors got that one run back in the sixth off an RBI sacrifice fly by Alex Krug. Then, the Vistas turned to closer Derek Nygaard in the seventh inning.
Aided by a double play turned by Schimke, Nygaard faced the minimum of three batters in the seventh to close out the 7-4 title game victory.
No. 8 hitter Vigested went 3-for-4 at the plate and gave way to courtesy runner Carson Tonini each time. Tonini, who was the winning pitcher on Saturday, scored every time he was put on base to run for Vigested.
“The bottom of our lineup was awesome,” Arntson said. “When the top (of our lineup) didn’t come up (and perform) early on, they helped us out. But, the top of the lineup stayed with it and had some good at-bats late to get some runs across the board.”
The summer season rolls on for the Vistas with five games in Pierre, South Dakota, from July 6 to July 8. Minot’s next home appearance is a doubleheader against Williston on July 10.
Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.