Grandiose sweep

If there’s one ballclub that’s learned that no lead is insurmountable this year, it’s the Minot Vistas American Legion baseball team.

The Vistas let a seven-run lead slip in a loss to Mandan on Thursday. That’s why they didn’t panic when they trailed by seven runs after

2 1/2 innings in the second game of a doubleheader against Williston on Saturday at Corbett Field.

Instead of settling for a split with their long-time rivals, the Vistas put up a season-high 22 runs and took the nightcap 22-14 over the Keybirds for the sweep. Minot won the first game 13-3 in six innings.

“We hit the ball both games,” Minot coach Todd Larson said. “Hopefully we learned our lesson down in Mandan the other night when we scored 10 runs in the first three innings and only scored one the rest of the game. We really focused on that and pushed that upon the kids.”

The finale wasn’t pretty. Sandwiched in between the 36 runs and 22 hits were 29 walks and five hit batters. Seven pitchers took the hill in a game that lasted nearly three hours and almost all of them had trouble with their command.

“The second game especially, both teams struggled on the mound to throw the ball over the plate and when they did guys were putting pretty good swings on them,” Williston coach Greg McNary said. “I have to give credit where credit’s due and Minot really kind of manhandled us today. We’ve been playing some pretty good baseball, but today I don’t know a phase of the game we outplayed them.”

Trailing 7-0, Alex Mack started the comeback with a solo home run to left field to lead off the third inning. The Vistas brought 13 batters to the plate in the frame and by the time it was over, they held a 9-7 advantage. Grant Larson and Dalton Cooper each had two-run singles in the inning.

The Keybirds momentarily reclaimed the lead at 10-9 in the fourth before the Vistas (8-10 overall, 5-7 league) countered with a seven-run bottom half. Austin Eggl drove in four with a two-out grand slam to left off Matt Kohler, Minot’s second of the series.

“It was early in the count and I figured he’d probably start with a fastball. He was throwing pretty hard so his ball did a lot of the work there,” Eggl said. “We had a pretty decent wind blowing out to left and I’d say that helped me out a bit.”

Larson and Williston pitcher Seth Falcon exited early, both pitching into the third inning but failing to record an out in the frame. Larson threw 44 pitches in the first inning, walking five, and ended up issuing eight free passes. Falcon walked four and hit another. Minot walked three times with the bases loaded.

Leading 16-14 in the sixth, the Vistas tacked on six more runs for insurance and Hunter Duttenhefer pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to end it.

“It’s one of the higher scoring games I’ve seen in a long time,” Eggl said. “Both teams struggled with control a lot. It’s something we want to fix, but obviously we’re happy with the way we hit the ball and hopefully we can continue to do that.”

Cooper picked up the win in relief, allowing five runs on five hits over three innings.

The opener didn’t match the run output as the finale, but it didn’t lack offensive fireworks. Travis Walker hit the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence for a grand slam in the first as the Vistas built a 5-0 lead.

“I felt it off the bat and it felt pretty good,” Walker said. “I didn’t know if it was going out or not so I just took off around the bases. It was nice to get that four-run padding.”

The Vistas plated a run in each inning but the third. Brady Lampert delivered a two-run home run in the sixth off Trenten Hove and Walker walked with the bases loaded to end the game.

“Offensively, we did a lot of nice things,” Todd Larson said. “We had four home runs in the doubleheader. It kind of brought me back to some of those days where we used to hit 60 or 70 home runs in a season. Today was an offensive show for us and I’m very happy with that.”

Chandler Jacob scattered six hits over six innings, striking out six and walking two to improve to 1-1.

The Vistas host Mandan on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

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