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Minot Vistas fall short in state tournament, look ahead to 2022

Ryan Ladika/MDN Eli Nissen, pictured from the Vistas' July 9 contest, tossed an eight-inning complete game and struck out nine in Minot's tournament-opening 5-4 win against the Dickinson Roughriders.

The Minot Vistas are nothing if not resilient.

Throughout the 2021 Class AA Legion State Baseball Tournament in Mandan last week, the Vistas displayed time and time again their tenacity against some of the toughest summer legion clubs in the state. By the end, though, Minot simply ran out of gas, falling by a 14-6 final score in the semifinal loser-out contest to the eventual state champion West Fargo Patriots.

“Vistas fall 14-6 to a talented West Fargo team,” the team’s official account tweeted Friday evening. “Boys fought just didn’t have enough in the tank. Finish the year at 30-18.”

Their tournament run began with a thrilling 5-4 walkoff victory over Dickinson July 27 that saw Landyn Almy provide the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning after the team rallied for the tying run in the bottom of the seventh with two outs. The Vistas first baseman once again came through in the club’s second game the next day, swatting a two-run single to punctuate a three-run third inning in an eventual 4-3 defeat to the Post 400 Stars.

“It was huge, especially because he consistently hits in the bottom third of the lineup,” head coach Pat Arntson said. “He understands baseball, that’s his game. He spends a ton of time in the cages on his swing and getting ready, so it’s not terribly surprising. He’s done a really good job for us and he came up big in a huge moment against Dickinson, because that thing would have kept going back-and-forth.”

The Vistas were unfazed by their one-run defeat at the hands of the eventual runner-up Stars. A late rally, including a three-run fifth frame, pushed the team past the Grand Forks Royals 5-4 in their first loser-out contest, but the tank was empty by the time they reached their date with West Fargo.

“Regardless of how it went, the guys just kept playing,” Arntson said. “They kept playing hard and responding to adversity. We had three one-run ballgames and then obviously West Fargo got away from us. Our guys were pretty comfortable playing. I think we had an appropriate finish, the teams that were left were really good, and we just didn’t quite have enough for them.”

Leadoff hitter and center fielder Chase Burke, who finished the season with a team-leading .436 batting average in 45 games, demonstrated incredible patience throughout the tournament. He recognized early that opposing pitchers were going to pitch around him, and he drew three walks in the one-run loss alone.

By the time the tournament had concluded, Burke had drawn six walks and recorded only two hits, but Arntson was impressed at his maturity at the plate that led to four runs scored.

“I think it was pretty obvious that they weren’t terribly interested in having him be the deciding factor,” he said. “They were really careful with him, and he did a good job of accepting that and getting on base and trying to score some runs for us.”

Arntson also pointed to the performance on the mound by Trent Greek in Minot’s win over the Royals as another instrumental moment in their tournament run. He tossed 5.1 solid innings, holding Grand Forks to just two runs on four hits while striking out five.

The outing marked the latest in an impressive senior summer season for Greek, who struck out 24 hitters in 41.1 innings of work while also hitting .357 with three home runs, 31 RBI and nine stolen bases.

“Greek threw a heck of a game, so that certainly helps when it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of offensive pressure from the other dugout,” Arntson said.

Burke and Greek are two of five Vistas players who have aged out of the Legion summer program, joining Dylan Buchanan, Trent Greek, Braedon McCarty and Tyler Harbort. All except Harbort will be moving on to play college baseball next year.

Burke will be taking his talents to Mesa Community College, Greek to Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, and Buchanan and McCarty will remain teammates at Dakota College at Bottineau. The loss of the five seniors will surely be felt next summer, but the quintet lived up to Arntson’s leadership expectations throughout the season to set the team up for success in 2022.

“Anytime you lose that it’s big,” he said of the five players the team is losing. “But for the most part it’s just good guys who were on the program and played hard and did a good job showing the younger guys how things are supposed to be handled. We just thanked them for a fun summer, and hopefully we get to keep seeing most of them back at the field.”

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