‘Utility guy’ breaks out: Oothoudt key in Vistas’ sweep of Williston

Hunter Oothoudt has been asked to do just about everything for the Minot Vistas. He has played 7 positions in the American Legion season and baseball isn’t even his top sport.

Following a tryout, the 2013 Minot High School graduate may join his brother Josh on the University of North Dakota tennis team this fall.

Oothoudt is thriving despite the position shifting in his final season of competitive baseball. He finished 6-for-7 with four RBIs in a non-conference sweep of Williston on Sunday at Corbett Field. Oothoudt was 4-for-4 with two infield singles as a right fielder in the first game – a 9-4 win in seven innings. He moved behind the plate for the 11-0 (five inning) second game and batted 2-for-3 with a sacrifice fly. He first learned the position earlier this month for the team’s trip to Omaha because the top two catchers had prior obligations.

“I’m known as the utility player, so wherever they need a player I’ll be,” Oothoudt said. “Coach said he would put me in there wherever they need a bat just to get my bat at the plate. That’s, like, my eighth time catching and I’ve really developed to like it.”

The Vistas (13-9) have won four straight and Williston (10-14) dropped its sixth straight.

Grant Larson (2-1) gave up six hits in a complete game for the first win and kept Williston from stringing together anything major. Williston scored twice in the third inning to take a 3-2 lead, but the Vistas responded with five runs in the bottom half and held the Keybirds hitless in three of the final four innings.

Oothoudt scored in the rally and led off the fourth inning with a double. He scored his second run minutes later on a fielder’s choice by Wesley Johnson.

“We told (Oothoudt) before the start of the game he’s probably the best utility guy in the state,” Vistas coach Todd Larson said. “He’s played outfield positions for us, he’s played infield, he’s caught. If you’re hitting for us, we’re gonna find a place for you in the lineup and that’s just a compliment to him.”

Williston coach Greg McNary wasn’t in a mood to offer many compliments to his team, which had just eight hits and five errors through both games.

“I’m very impressed with Minot,” McNary said. “They had a better approach at the plate than us. They threw the ball over the plate better than us and they certainly caught the ball better than us. If you have three factors like that the scoreboard’s gonna end up exactly how it ended up.

“My young guys are out there bustin’ their butts and right now I’ve got some older guys that, just, unless things go really well for ’em they don’t want to hustle. From my point of view, I’m gonna put the (9) guys out there that want to play the most, so I’m disappointed in our effort.”

Shawn Danielson picked up his second win in four days in his first start of the season. He held the Keybirds to just two hits in the second game and struck out four with just two walks in the run-rule-shortened five innings.

Danielson, who has mainly been used a set-up reliever, kept it simple with his fastball and slider.

“I feel like I can be able to get in there and give us a chance to win,” he said, “just throw strikes and do what a pitcher needs to do to get a win.”

It didn’t hurt to have an explosive offense helping him. Williston starter Jordan Axness was relieved after 1 2/3 innings. Oothoudt again was key in a five-run inning. In this game it came in the second frame as he hit a sacrifice fly with bases loaded to set up Lampert, who also connected for a sacrifice fly.

That Oothoudt RBI came between two RBI singles. The latter brought in Austin Berntson for the game’s final run.

“When I get the chance at the plate I’m gonna hit the ball,” Oothoudt said. “I just go up there swinging and today I just had a really good day. I saw the ball really well and every pitch that came in I saw the spin on it and just connected.”

The Vistas look to avenge last week’s 11-5 loss to Mandan in a nine-inning game at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Corbett Field.

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