Stalwart defense grants Grand Forks two victories over Vistas
As John Fogerty’s classic “Centerfield” tune filled the Corbett Field bleachers, the Grand Forks Blue Devils flashed their leather against the Minot Vistas.
In Game 1 of Monday evening’s doubleheader, the Blue Devils (8-4 statewide league) defeated the Vistas (6-10 statewide league) in a hard-fought 3-2 contest. Grand Forks earned a 7-2 victory in the nightcap.
“That was the best we’ve really swung it in a while,” Vistas head coach Pat Arntson said about Game 1. “Not the most hits we’ve had, but certainly the most quality swings that we’ve taken. Barreled-up balls. It did feel like they always had a guy standing where we hit it.”
Both teams started the evening with one run apiece in the first inning. Brody Sorenson smacked an RBI single for Grand Forks, but Minot’s Dylan Vigested countered with a Texas Leaguer that found a favorable spot in shallow left field.
The squads racked up hits, but starting pitchers Zach Ziegler and Tyler Harbort painted the black and escaped some jams. The scoring reached a standstill until the top of the fifth frame.
Ryan Muizelaar provided the game’s decisive knock, a sharp two-run single to left field. Although the Blue Devils held a slim lead, strong pitching from Ziegler and reliever Zach Carolin aided Grand Forks.
In the seventh, Carolin allowed one run on Chase Burke’s RBI double. The Vistas threatened with men on base, but Carolin pitched to contact and squashed the rally.
Run support was scarce, but Harbort allowed only five hits and walked just one batter in his complete-game outing. The southpaw also racked up four strikeouts.
“Not a lot of guys have seen a lefty pitcher,” Harbort said. “I just put a little bit of movement on the ball. It’s all reversed for them. They’re not ready for that. It just throws them off for a split second. That’s all I need.”
Sorenson didn’t wait long to strike in the nightcap. His deep two-out double brought in Grand Forks’ first two runs of Game 2.
After providing the offensive punch, Sorenson mixed a consistent fastball with effective off-speed pitches on the mound. He held the Vistas scoreless until the bottom of the seventh inning.
Minot hurler Aydan Almy limited the damage to the initial two runs. He finished his five-inning start after allowing three hits and three walks.
In the top of the sixth inning, Minot’s Calvin Watkins entered the game as a relief pitcher. Watkins dealt with some trouble, but finished the scoreless frame after escaping a two-out jam.
Logan Merck rewarded those efforts with a two-out RBI single through the left side. Sorenson gathered himself and recorded the final out of his start.
“He’s tough, so you have smaller windows of success,” Arntson said.
As the Blue Devils entered the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead, another dramatic finish appeared to be in the cards. A bases-loaded walk, a two-run single and a throwing error gave Grand Forks insurance runs.
Minot plated one run in the bottom of the seventh before the Blue Devils closed out the win.
“I think it’s a good measuring stick,” Arntson said. “I think they’re going to end up in the top half, for sure, after these two that they got today. It’s a potential matchup. They beat us both games, so I’m sure they would be comfortable seeing us. It’s just good for us to see. We’re not that far off. We’ve talked about it a lot.”
The Vistas will host Mandan in another doubleheader on Thursday. The first game is scheduled for 5 p.m.
Jimmy Lafakis covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.