Returning to form

The end of April and the first couple days of May were unkind to the Minot High baseball team.

In a span of 11 days stretching from April 22 to Friday, the Magicians had lost four straight West Region contests and five of eight overall.

After several frustrating doubleheaders, Minot looked like the team it was expected to be from the beginning, sweeping St. Mary’s on Monday at Corbett Field. The Magicians won the region contest 14-4 in six innings before completing the sweep with a 6-2 victory in the nightcap.

Minot swept its first series since April 12 when it won a pair against Jamestown.

“We’ve kind of been hit or miss all season,” Minot senior Kolton Larson said. “Couple guys get a hit and then we’d go blank. From a start-to-finish standpoint, this is what we’ve been looking for.”

Things didn’t start well for the Magicians (10-8 overall, 5-4 region), who found themselves down 3-0 before coming to bat for the first time. Minot junior Grant Larson struggled with his control early, walking three in the first inning. The Saints’ first two runs came via wild pitches.

“Grant stuggled a little bit in that first inning and he stayed the distance,” Minot coach Pete Stenberg said. “He stayed the course and our hitters finally came around a little bit.”

But Larson settled down from there, allowing just one run the rest of the way. He retired 11 of the final 12 batters, issuing one walk through the final five innings. Larson went the distance, scattering five hits and striking out three.

For as rough as Larson’s first inning was, Thomas Barry had even more trouble for St. Mary’s. After recording two outs to start the game, Barry walked four straight batters and balked twice. Hunter Duttenhefer walked with the bases loaded for Minot’s first run of the game, but Barry got senior Jacob Holmen to fly out with the bags full to end the threat.

The Saints (4-14, 0-8) added a run in the third for a 4-1 lead before Minot recorded the final 13 runs to end the game in six innings. Seven of those runs came in the fourth inning as the Magicians found their swing. Minot brought 11 batters to the plate and recorded six hits off St. Mary’s reliever Jacob Brucker.

“Hitting’s contageous,” Stenberg said. “Once one gets going, it kind of picks up a little bit. It was nice to see. We needed something like this at this time of the season.”

An RBI single by senior Chandler Jacob scored sophomore Ben Bolinske to tie the game at 4 and senior Kolton Larson ripped a two-run single up the middle with the bases loaded to put Minot in front for good. Senior Jacob Holmen added an RBI single through the left side and Bolinske connected on his second double of the frame to score two.

“We just told them we need to start focusing more,” Stenberg said. “If we’re going to swing, we need to swing hard and attack the baseball. To a point from the early part of the season up until now we weren’t aggresive enough at the plate. We got more aggresive and swung on some balls that we drove really nice.”

Bolinske, Holmen and Larson drove in two runs each.

The Saints failed to record an out in the sixth. Duttenhefer was plunked to open the inning, Holmen walked and Dalton Cooper scored Duttenhefer with a single through the left side. Bolinske got pegged and Jacob lined a shot up the middle to load the bases. Junior Alex Mack ended the game with a single to right field.

“Some of it is mental toughness,” St. Mary’s coach Reid Flaagen said. “We just lose focus at times and we did it a lot today. It can’t happen. We’ve been better at that lately, but today I thought we took a step back.”

In the series finale, St. Mary’s again jumped out to an early lead, scoring twice in the first off senior Brady Lampert. But the Magicians responded with five runs in the bottom half and coasted from there.

Lampert surrendered one hit over the final four innings to notch the win on the mound.

Kolton Larson tripled in the first and homered to left in the fourth. Larson finished the series 3-for-4 with four RBIs and four runs scored.

“We just had better approaches at the plate,” Kolton Larson said. “Coaches have been working with us on pitch selection and I think guys were more disciplined and we all hit around through the order.”

Minot hosts Williston today at 4:30 p.m. at Corbett Field.

Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.