Early-season struggles

When the Minot Vistas American Legion baseball team finalized its regular-season schedule eight months ago, it knew its opening week was going to be challenging.

After doubleheaders against preseason No. 5 West Fargo and No. 1 Fargo Post 2, the schedule didn’t get any easier for the Vistas on Sunday, when they hosted No. 3 Grand Forks at Corbett Field.

Despite the tough competition, Minot was looking for a better start to its season. Grand Forks ended the opener after five innings, putting eight runs on the board in the final inning en route to an 11-0 victory. The Royals completed the sweep with a 5-2 victory in the finale. It was the second time the Vistas have been swept this season.

“We came out a little flat in the first game,” Minot coach Todd Larson said. “Close game for a bit, but they broke that open. Grand Forks is an awfully good team. We’re only six games into it. We know when we scheduled this in November that we had some tough competition to start the year. It lived up to that billing.”

The Vistas (1-5 overall, 1-5 league) compiled just two hits in the opener and were no-hit through 3 1/3 innings by Grand Forks starting pitcher Brady Regimbal. Hunter Duttenhefer broke up his no-hitter with a single to left field. Brady Lampert recorded the other hit – a single to right with two outs in the fifth.

Duttenhefer got the start on the hill for the Vistas and limited the Royals (5-2, 2-2) to three runs on six hits through four innings before running into trouble in the fifth. Grand Forks brought 14 batters to the plate in the fifth and chased Duttenhefer with one out. He allowed eight runs on eight hits, walking three and striking out two.

Liam Owens, who pitched in relief against Fargo on Friday, came in with the bases loaded and didn’t record an out against the three batters he faced. He walked Ty Straus to bring in a run, gave up a two-run double to Logan Montgomery and a single to Cole Kirchoffner before being replaced by Shawn Danielson. Danielson walked three straight – two with the bases loaded – sandwiched between a pair of groundouts.

“We’re still walking too many guys,” Larson said. “We’re giving up too many 0-2, 1-2 base hits. We’re not fielding routine ground balls. We’re not putting the baseball in play very well as a hitting team. Again, all those things are fixable.”

Minot fared better in the finale, plating two runs in the first inning and matching its hit total from the previous game after six batters. Chandler Jacob drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a base hit by Alex Mack. Lampert reached on a throwing error to load the bases and Duttenhefer drove Jacob and Mack in with a two-run single through the right side.

That was all the run support the Vistas could muster for Trevor Ringoen as they posted zeros over the final six innings.

The Royals played small ball to score their first three runs. They recorded three sacrifice flys and two sacrifice bunts.

“We have a lot of people on our team that can run,” Grand Forks coach Nick Chine said. “In almost any situation we’ll play small ball. We’ll lay the ball down and make them make a play and we did that today.”

A sacrifice fly by Kaden Monette scored Kaleb Binstock, giving Grand Forks a 3-2 lead in the sixth. Binstock reached on an error, moved to second on a base hit by Jace Braathen and was bunted over to third by Erik Hanson. Braathen later scored on an RBI double by Montgomery.

“We always like to be more consistent,” Jacob said. “Out pitchers have been throwing well and doing good enough to allow us to win, but we just got to hit the ball a little better and play better defense behind them in order to win.”

Ringoen suffered the loss after pitching six innings. He allowed four runs on eight hits, striking out two and walking two others. Alex Arrayan surrendered a run in the seventh.

“Trevor Ringoen was real good,” Larson said. “He gave us five solid innings and battled there in the sixth for us. If we make a play on a ground ball it’s a different story. Trevor, just like Austin Eggl the other night against Fargo, gave us a chance to win. We scored those two early runs and just never got anything going after that.”

The Vistas travel to Jamestown today at 5:30 p.m.

Mike Kraft covers the Minot Vistas and racing during the summer. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.