Vistas survive and advance with 5-4 win over Royals
Head coach Pat Arntson’s Vistas team is not done yet.
Less than 24 hours removed from the Minot’s 4-3 defeat at the hands of the No. 7 Fargo Post 400 Stars that sent Minot to the loser-out side of the bracket, the Vistas gutted out a tightly-contested 5-4 victory Thursday morning against the Grand Forks Royals at Veteran’s Memorial Ballpark in Mandan, pushing the squad to within three victories of a 2021 Class AA Legion State Championship.
A three-spot in the bottom of the third inning was all the club could muster Wednesday afternoon, but Minot kicked its offense into gear right away in their must-win Thursday matchup.
After starter Trent Greek retired the Royals in order in the top of the first inning, leadoff hitter Chase Burke worked yet another base on balls to lead off the game. Dating back to Wednesday’s contest, it was the fourth walk in five plate appearances drawn by the center fielder.
Burke wasted no time stealing second base for his third robbery of the tournament, and Vistas catcher Braedon McCarty later came through with one out, dunking a one-out single to left field that allowed the speedy Burke to come around with the game’s first run. The knock also marked McCarty’s first RBI of the tournament.
The Royals produced a response in the top of the second, plating the equalizer on a pair of singles and a Minot miscue. Greek quickly shook off the run-scoring hit with a groundout to minimize the damage before tossing a perfect third inning, striking out his second and third hitters of the contest in the process.
After the Vistas starter added his fourth punchout in a scoreless fourth to keep the game tied, Minot found its offensive footing once more. Tyler Budeau came up with a one-out single to advance Morgan Nygaard, who reached on a fielder’s choice, to third base for one of the Vistas’ timeliest hitters in the tournament to date.
Landyn Almy struggled to the tune of an 0-for-2 in Minot’s Tuesday tournament-opener before producing his walkoff RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning, and added a two-run single in Minot’s three-run third Wednesday evening.
Again at the plate in another prime run-scoring chance, Almy provided once more, lifting a fly ball to medium-depth center field, deep enough for Nygaard to scamper home and give the Vistas a 2-1 lead.
The home nine’s offensive momentum carried into the next inning as well, as four consecutive Vistas reached base with two outs in the squad’s three-run fifth. Ruzicka extended the inning with his first hit of the day and advanced to third base on McCarty’s walk and a steal of third on the Grand Forks catcher’s throw back to the mound.
Dylan Buchanan continued the two-out rally with a ground ball that bounced off the third base bag, forcing Ruzicka home and allowing McCarty to advance 180 feet to third base. McCarty completed his trip around the bases when Royals starter Mason Stroh uncorked a wild pitch, and an RBI double by Nygaard, the second Vistas double of the frame, pushed the third Minot run across to extend the Vistas’ lead to 5-1.
Greek had tossed another clean frame before the Vistas’ three-run inning, but the starter’s outing came to an end in the sixth inning after Grand Forks inched a bit closer with their second run. Ruzicka swapped gloves and took over in relief with one out and promptly struck out the first two hitters he faced to escape the threat.
Two more Royals runs came around in the top of the seventh, but Ruzicka made his pitch with two outs and the tying run on base, inducing a Ryan Mulzelaar groundout to seal Minot’s 5-4 victory and extend its season.
Dylan Buchanan was the offensive leader in the contest, earning a pair of hits and driving in one. Nygaard also doubled and drove in a run as well, and Greek struck out five in 5.1 innings of work.
Minot’s next contest is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday afternoon against West Fargo in Mandan with a trip to the Saturday championship round on the line.