Vistas drop fourth straight in home finale

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot Vistas infielder Kaleb Bellew (8) tags out Bismarck Governors' Treyton Mattern (left) sliding into second base Monday evening at Corbett Field in Minot.

Irrelevant in terms of the final regular season standings, Monday’s nine-inning American Legion Class AA contest between the Minot Vistas and the Bismarck Governors was played as a tune-up game for the upcoming state tournament.

It was also the Vistas last chance to play in front of their home supporters at Corbett Field this summer.

That motivation wasn’t enough to stop Minot’s recent slump. The Vistas were dealt their fourth defeat in a row with a 6-2 loss to the Governors on Monday in Minot.

“Things haven’t been going well, especially offensively,” Vistas head coach Pat Arntson said. “I think we have scored three runs in the last 30 innings. That’s the glaring issue right now with us.”

Early on, Minot picked up a couple of clutch hits.

The first hit of the game scored the first run, as Vistas’ Kaleb Bellew singled through the left side of the infield for an RBI in the bottom of the second inning.

The Governors got the lone run back in the third inning with an RBI groundout by Skyler Riedinger. That was matched by an RBI flyout by Alex Schimke in the bottom half to restore Minot’s lead, 2-1.

Bismarck wasn’t going to let that slide.

Canaan Fagerland hooked a ball just inside the left field foul pole for a solo home run in the fourth and then Treyton Mattern used an infield single off Schimke’s glove to plate two runs in the fifth.

Putting runs up for a fourth straight inning, Bismarck got an RBI single in the sixth by Paxton Miller to push its lead out to 5-2.

The Governors scoring streak continued in the seventh with a lead-off triple by Ben Patton and an ensuing wild pitch.

Meanwhile, Minot’s offense had stalled out.

“We are lacking in the approach,” Arntson said. “We have guys with talent, but they will have a 1-0 count and get jammed on a fastball right above their hands — a ball nowhere near the middle of the plate. That shows us that there isn’t a plan in place.”

Being on the road a bunch this season and not having a lot of practice days in the batting cage might have played a role in Minot’s offensive woes at the moment, Arntson acknowledged.

“If we haven’t covered it well enough to cement it in them,” Arntson said, “then that’s on us (coaches) for not preparing them to have an idea of what they should be trying to do in the box.”

Vistas relief pitcher Calvin Watkins send the Governors down 1-2-3 in the eighth inning for the first time since starting pitcher Aydan Almy did the same thing back in the first and second innings.

The Vistas went through five different pitchers.

“We needed to get some of our guys their last live action who haven’t been throwing a ton of innings,” Arntson said. “So, a lot of changes we made were because of that.”

Minot wasted a promising start to the eighth inning — a walk to Kyler Stenberg and a single by Schimke — with an untimely double play and a fly out to center field.

“Schimke and I were talking about it before our last at-bats,” Stenberg said about playing his final game at Corbett Field. “Obviously, a home run would be cool. But, any way to get on would be a good way to end it. We both did that, so that was nice.”

The Vistas, however, went down quietly in the ninth to Bismarck closer Cru Walker.

Patton went 3-for-4 with two runs scored for the Governors, while Schimke was the only Vistas to record multiple hits (2-for-2 with an RBI). Bismarck outhit Minot, 10-5.

“Everyone wants to hit, but we have guys who are struggling and are really good hitters,” Arntson said. “And they try to force it. ‘I haven’t got a hit in a while, so I have to get a hit.’ Then, they start swinging at other pitches that they can’t have success with. It snowballs.”

The North Dakota American Legion Class AA State Tournament will be held July 26 through July 30 in Grand Forks.

The No. 3-seeded Minot Vistas will face No. 6 Williston in the first round of the double-elimination tournament at 1:30 p.m. on Friday.

Minot shut out Williston twice, 8-0 and 6-0, when they played a pair of regional counter games on July 10.

Expect a low-scoring game if the Vistas send out Carson Tonini and Williston counters with Brady Aberle.

“If those two guys throw, then I wouldn’t expect there to be more than four runs on either side,” Arntson said. “It’s a coin flip. Especially, when you have kids — a bunch of teenagers in the state tournament. Sometimes the moment is too big and sometimes guys play out of their minds because they aren’t nervous about anything. Crazy stuff happens at these state tournaments.”

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