Beavers square off
Game one of Tuesday’s American Legion doubleheader between Minot and Dickinson was a pitchers’ duel between two future Minot State University teammates.
Advantage went to the veteran – Vista and MSU rising sophomore Austin Berntson.
In his last home game on the mound at Corbett Field, Berntson led Minot to a 2-1 win over recent Dickinson High School graduate and soon-to-be Beaver James Kary.
Both players held their opponents to just six hits in an error-free game that counted toward the state standings.
“I haven’t seen much of (Kary), but I think he’ll be a fun guy to play with,” Berntson said. “He showed that he’s pretty good on the hill and kept us off balance and threw really well, actually.”
Berntson was one of six Vistas (19-13 overall, 9-5 state) playing their final home doubleheader. Fellow third-year players Brock Krueger and Marcus Quist and second-year players Caleb Fornshell, Casey Ryan and Hunter Oothoudt also finished their careers at home. Minot is on the road for its final 10 games before the state tournament in West Fargo (July 31 through Aug. 4). The Roughriders took game two 6-0 behind a four-hitter from pitcher Taylor Kraenzel.
Minot struck first in game one with Jacob Holmen’s squeeze bunt in the second inning to score Hunter Oothoudt. The Roughriders (17-17, 6-10) answered in the third with Mack Erickson’s RBI double to score Alex Huschka.
Krueger, the only Vista with multiple hits in the game, scored the winning run in the fourth inning on Grant Larson’s RBI single. Krueger finished 3 for 3.
“Came down as a pitchers duel between me and (Berntson),” Kary said. “He’s a good pitcher and he got me today. We’ve been competing against each other for a long time since we were young, so the nice thing is next year we won’t be competing against each other. We’ll be with each other.”
Despite the loss, Kary pitched well against what he described as the “best hitting team in the state.” Kary and Kraenzel shut down Minot leadoff batter Caleb Fornshell and No. 2 batter Marcus Quist, who both finished the day just 1 for 7.
“You just got to keep them off balance,” Kary said. “Throw changeups and sliders and throw ’em for strikes and make ’em not look fastball when you can get other pitches in the zone. Makes ’em a little uncomfortable.”
Minot coach Todd Larson was pleased with his team’s pitching, including Hunter Oothoudt’s first five innings in game two.
“Their kids pitched it well,” Larson said. “Thankfully, Austin Berntson in game one was really good for us. He just continues to get better with each outing. We just didn’t give (Oothoudt) any run support in that second game. A very frustrating second game. You want so badly for those six kids that just played their last game at Corbett Field to get a win out here.”
Larson was disappointed with his team’s lack of discipline in the second game. He said the Vistas tried swinging harder as Kraenzel’s pitches slowed.
Two Minot errors aided the Roughriders in a two-run second inning. Oothoudt loaded the bases in the sixth inning and Marcus Quist plunked the first batter he faced to give Dickinson its third run. Two of the three runs in the seventh inning came off walks with the bases loaded.
Kraenzel finished the Vistas, who left nine runners on in the game, with two strikeouts in the seventh.
“I was real happy with our staffers today,” Dickinson coach Cory Hansen said. “They pitched their butts off. We had some mental mistakes in the first game that kind of put us against the wall and they made us pay for it in one inning. Other than that, I thought you can’t ask for any more. We don’t have any shutdown guys. We have guys that compete and that’s what we gotta have from them.”
MSU coach Brock Weppler was in attendance for game one and was excited to see two Beavers compete.
“I enjoyed coming down to watch ’em a little bit, get a little bit of feel for what we got coming in the fall,” Weppler said. “Both competed and I thought (Kary) threw well. (Berntson) got himself in a couple jams, but did a good job getting out of them.”
Weppler plans to have Kary compete for a role at first base and believes Berntson may be a regular starter in 2014 as his control improves.
“Once in awhile you’ll see a lot of 3-2 counts, so he’ll throw a bit more pitches than we’d like,” Weppler said, “but he did a good job with us this spring throwing to contact, keeping hitters off balance. If he can continue to work on that, we expect big things.”
Berntson had one of his better outings of the Legion season because he warmed up closer to gametime. First innings have been a struggle, but the lefthander was in the strike zone from the start Tuesday.
“I would get cold by the time the game started,” he said, “so I’ve been warming up later and it makes me feel a little weird because I’m not warming up with the team, but in the end it helps me out.”
The Vistas are at Devils Lake for a doubleheader at 5:30 p.m. tonight and close the week with a doubleheader at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Mandan.
Tim Chapman covers the Vistas and Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.