Metros continue building for the future following tournament loss
The 2021 summer American Legion campaign for the Minot Metros may not have ended how head coach Dalton Cooper, his staff and the players were hoping, but the Minot skipper is quite optimistic for the future of the club.
After an impressive run through the 2021 Class A West Region Tournament in Watford City ended on a sour note with a 12-1 defeat at the hands of Jamestown Post 14, the second-seeded Metros dropped their first two contests in the state tournament as well. Minot fell 8-0 to the West Fargo Vets in the July 30 tournament opener before a 6-5 loss to the Bismarck Capitals in the losers’ bracket ended the Metros’ 2021 season with a 20-28 final record.
“I thought the boys battled throughout the season and in the tournament,” Cooper said. “Down there, it was tough. We played some really good teams. It was a very good experience for them, especially with us being so young and a lot of those kids returning next year. It was good to get down there and see what that atmosphere is like and play the teams with that kind of skill level.”
The team embraced its relative youth compared to other squads it faced in the postseason that trotted out players in their late teens. Even with six 15-year-olds in the starting lineup, the Metros found it in them to pull off upsets of the third- and second-seeded teams in the regional tournament, games that gave the Metros a boost of confidence going to Jamestown.
Following the loss to Bismarck, Cooper’s message to the team was one of encouragement for the future. The summer season may now be over, but many of Minot’s players will soon begin again with fall sports that are in the early stages of ramping back up for the upcoming season. As long as his players continue to give their all, that is all Cooper can ask for.
“Just to keep competing with everything that they do, that was our message throughout the year was to compete,” he added. “That’s what Minot sports needs right now, they just need a group of athletes that are going to compete with everything that they do.”
The Metros certainly did so throughout the summer season, recording robust offensive numbers in support of a solid pitching staff to carry them all the way to becoming the second seed in the state tournament.
Seven regulars in Minot’s lineup finished the season with a batting average above .300, with Hunter Horner’s .388 mark leading the team in the category. Infielder Adam Roedocker was also a steady offensive presence for the Vistas, driving in a team-leading 22 runs to accompany his .301 average and 10 extra-base hits, a mark bested only by Horner’s 12 and Tyson Ruzicka’s 16.
Ruzicka demonstrated perhaps the best all-around game throughout the summer, hitting for a .304 average, holding the team lead in extra-base hits, including the team’s only home run, as well as 20 stolen bases in 21 attempts. He also posted the team’s lowest earned run average, 3.05, among pitchers with at least 10 innings of work under their belt.
Jaxon Radke was the team’s workhorse, throwing 41.1 innings and registering a respectable 3.90 ERA to pair with his 44 strikeouts, also the most on the club.
The team’s secret behind its late-season success was a commitment to improving their skills in the fundamentals of the game. Cooper called them the “little things,” and as the season progressed, his players more and more started to buy into Cooper’s teachings, and their ability to all pull on the same end of the rope only improved as the dog days of summer came and went.
These individual performances, among others, inspire hope for the team’s future. Cooper, along with Minot Vistas head coach Pat Arntson, will continue to develop their players as they grow older and continue to hone their craft.
“I think we’re in very good shape, both teams are,” Cooper said. “The Vistas didn’t lose a whole lot of people so they’re going to be in really good hands. The 14-year-old age group is really good, the kids who we’re going to get next year. Those kids are going to be really good athletes and they’re going to help us a ton. So I think we’re in a really good spot right now.”