Metros find positives despite sweep

It wasn’t the result the Minot Metros Junior Legion team was looking for Wednesday, but they did something they were unable to accomplish when they first played Bismarck to open the season: play all seven innings.

The Metros were one ground ball away from a potential victory in a 5-3 loss to the Reps in game one. In game two, Minot scored the first three runs before allowing seven unanswered in an 11-4 loss.

In their first two meetings this season with Bismarck, the Metros (14-19) allowed 22 combined runs on 21 hits and committed five errors in a pair of mercy-rule shortened contests.

“We played better baseball,” Minot coach Jason Steele said. “Earlier in the year we played them a few times and every time we played them they put up big numbers on us. We competed and played well. Hunter (Duttenhefer) threw well and it was just an all-around good baseball game.”

Duttenhefer pitched well enough to earn the win, but a costly error by third baseman Eric Danielson with two outs in the top of the seventh inning proved to be the difference. Hunter Beckert’s grounder to third went under the glove of Danielson and harmlessly into left field, scoring Tyler Famias for the eventual game-winning run.

“You just clear your mind after that and try to get three outs,” Duttenhefer said. “He feels bad already so I just let him go.”

Duttenhefer scattered five runs – two earned – on 10 hits, striking out seven in the complete-game effort.

“We played our hardest today and that’s all our coaches ask for,” Duttenhefer said. “We played a really good team.”

The Metros fought back twice to tie the game in the third and sixth innings, respectively. Liam Owens knotted the contest at two when Bismarck’s Nick Winbauer struggled to field a base hit by Alex Arrayan in the third. Travis Walker’s sacrifice fly to center scored Arrayan in the sixth to tie the game at three.

Bismarck pitcher Logan Krivoruchka retired the final six batters he faced to earn the complete-game victory. Krivoruchka allowed three runs on six hits and struck out seven for the Reps (29-4).

“(Minot’s) a different team now,” Bismarck coach Troy Olson said. “That was a great first game. We battled and it couldn’t have gone either way. We ended up getting a couple in the seventh and hung on.”

Minot didn’t let the heartbreaking loss linger in the second game, taking a 2-0 lead on Dalton Cooper’s two-run double to right field in the bottom of the first. The Metros pushed their lead to three when Owens scored from third on a passed ball.

“We jumped on them early,” Steele said. “We had some solid base hits, we had some good approaches at the plate.”

Owens kept Bismarck’s high-octane offense in check for the first three innings, allowing just three base hits. But the Reps’ bats came to life in the fourth. Joel Thune, A.J. Dale and Cyril Nagurski all doubled in the inning an Famias – who led off the inning with a single – tripled to deep right-center. The foursome combined for six RBIs in a seven-run fourth inning.

The Metros countered with a run in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI double by Duttenhefer. But the next nine batters failed to reach base.

Minot plays in the state tournament on Wednesday at Corbett Field.

Mike Kraft covers racing at Nodak Speedway and assists with Legion baseball coverage. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.