Vistas lose sixth straight game

Minot was hoping for a happy homecoming after dropping five straight games in Omaha, Neb., but the Vistas left 16 runners on base and couldn’t keep pace with error-free Mandan in an 11-5 American Legion baseball loss Tuesday.

The Vistas (8-8) struggled to find timely hits after taking a 3-0 lead in the second inning of the team’s first home loss.

Minot starting pitcher Chandler Jacob held the Chiefs (4-12) scoreless through three innings, but Mandan relaxed and scored in each of the remaining frames of the nine-inning game at Corbett Field.

“I don’t know if it’s a pressure thing (or) we have guys tense up, but we just haven’t been able to get that big hit,” Vistas assistant coach Andy Lach said. “Alex Mack had a big hit in the (second inning) That was a big, clutch hit for us and after that we had guys on base all over the place. We just couldn’t get the big hit to get them in.”

Head coach Todd Larson was unable to attend after having emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder Monday morning. Larson became ill Saturday evening during the team’s last game in Omaha. Lach said Larson is doing well, but the 15th-year skipper may need a few more days before returning to the team. Minot hosts Bismarck for a doubleheader at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Mandan coach Ryne Jungling said the Chiefs played their best game of the season. The visitors turned two double plays, including one in the fifth inning with the bases loaded. That was one of three innings that ended on Minot groundouts with the bases loaded.

“They got guys on base and we just pitched to contact,” Jungling said. “Then we got the guys out when we needed it. We weren’t trying to strike everybody out. We can’t strike everybody out – we know that – but we just gotta come out and pitch to contact and our guys picked up the pitchers today.”

Mack’s double in the second inning cleared the bases following three Minot singles with two outs. The 16-year-old’s hit to the left-field fence was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Vistas. Mack finished 2-for-2 with a sacrifice fly, two walks and four RBIs.

Minot added a run apiece in the fifth and seventh innings, but left two runners on in both frames.

“I think we just couldn’t hit the ball as well,” Mack said. “Our pitching struggled too. We just didn’t play our best. I think we might be a little tired, but we should still be able to play our best.”

Lach echoed that sentiment after a lengthy post-game discussion with his team and downplayed any effect the Omaha trip had.

“If it (did), it’s not an excuse,” Lach said. “We just didn’t play well. We didn’t throw enough strikes on the mound, we didn’t hit with runners in scoring position, we didn’t make plays when we needed to. It seemed to carry over to everyone we threw out there.”

Minot used four pitchers. Jacob had three strikeouts through the first three innings, but lost his control in the fourth. He finished with three wild pitches to accompany two passed balls and was pulled after a wild pitch in the sixth inning allowed Parker Harm to advance to third.

Shawn Danielson replaced Jacob and Jerry Carlson sent the reliever’s first pitch to right field for a single to bring in Harm, who finished with four runs scored. The Chiefs took a 5-4 lead for winning pitcher Jared Walters, who held Minot to four runs despite giving up 12 hits.

Minot outhit Mandan 15-8.

“We haven’t turned that many double plays this year,” Walters said, “but, I mean, up the middle it’s awesome to have that happen and have that win.”

Mandan leftfielder Zach Scott survived a scary collision with Harm in the sixth inning. Harm made the catch, but Scott took the brunt of knee-to-knee contact between the two and had to be carted off. Scott was walking after the game and Jungling said the injury isn’t believed to be serious.

Tim Chapman reports on Minot High School athletics and Minot Vistas. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.