Comforts of home

Before Monday’s American Legion doubleheader against Watford City, the Minot Vistas had gone 10 days without playing at Corbett Field.

Recently returned from a three-day Minnesota tour – a stretch which saw the Vistas lose four of five games – Minot found joy on its home field against the Walleye, strolling to a 10-0 victory in the opener, followed by a 5-2 win in the nightcap.

The Vistas (17-17) limited Watford City to six hits over the two games. Minot’s Game 1 starter, Shawn Danielson, turned in a one-hit effort for a complete-game shutout.

“He pounded the zone for us. That’s two good outings in a row from him now,” Minot coach Todd Larson said. “I’m very happy with how he’s progressing. He didn’t pitch hardly at all for us in the spring and really didn’t pitch much in June. So we’re excited with where he’s going.”

Danielson commanded the strike zone from the get-go, delivering first-pitch strikes to 12 of the 18 batters he faced. He struck out five in the first two innings and finished with nine altogether.

Finishing his recovery from an arm injury that plagued him throughout the high school season, Danielson feels that he’s starting to return to his usual form.

“I didn’t really have any pain, and that helped me get back to what I was doing last year,” he said. “My arm’s starting to feel better.”

It’s been a busy few weeks for the Vistas. They had played 30 games over a 28-day span entering Monday.

But four days removed from their final game in Minnesota, a suddenly rested Minot group was efficient in its return to the win column.

“We pushed the kids pretty hard in June and at the early part of July with that road trip. But we came out tonight and got some good swings in,” Larson said. “We were looking to get some repetition. It’ll be the same thing tomorrow night with Devils Lake, just trying to get some at-bats, get some good innings from our pitchers.”

After a scoreless first inning, the bottom half of the Vistas order inspired a four-run second during the opener.

Sparked by back-to-back singles from Austin Eggl and Hunter Duttenhefer, Minot’s bottom three hitters – Travis Walker, Dalton Cooper and Jake Magnuson – each provided RBIs to put the Vistas in front.

Magnuson had a particularly productive outing, going 2-for-2 with a double, a walk and a team-high three runs scored.

“It’s important if you have a good bottom of the order because there’s no getting bailed out by 7-8-9,” Magnuson said. “It’s gonna be key if we wanna win baseball games to have good hitting though the entire lineup.”

“They’re getting better down there,” Larson added. “Magnuson struggled early on offensively for us, and he’s really been hitting the ball well.”

Duttenhefer batted just above those three in the No. 6 spot and provided the strongest Minot showing at the dish. He went 5-for-6 over both games with a double, two RBIs and three runs scored.

Vistas first baseman Grant Larson drove in another three runs to further extend his team-lead in the same category. Alex Mack had four hits on the day – including a pair of doubles – two runs and an RBI.

“We always talk about being selective, having a good approach (at the plate),” Todd Larson said. “When they have a good approach, sometimes throughout that at-bat they’re gonna get a good pitch, and we put some balls in play tonight.”

Walleye starter Mitch Liebel registered the loss in the opener, giving up 10 runs on 12 hits and four walks. Defending Class B senior player of the year Andrew Sampsel suffered the loss in the nightcap, surrendering five runs on nine hits.

Playing with an injury-depleted lineup, Watford City coach Pat Spacher knew Monday would be a challenge.

But despite it being a tough day for the Walleye, the doubleheader provided a few bright spots for the visitors.

The highlight came in Game 1 during the fourth inning. After Magnuson’s leadoff double, Minot left fielder Chandler Jacob sent a shot to left-field corner which seemed destined for extra bases.

But Watford City’s Hunter Neether – recently called up from the Babe Ruth ranks – made a highlight-reel catch, diving to his right, arguably the best play of the night.

“We’ve been playing pretty much every day for the last week or two, and these guys are doing a nice job,” Spacher said. “We’re not happy about getting ten-runned, but I didn’t feel like we played terrible.”

The Vistas play Devils Lake in another home doubleheader this evening at 5:30.

Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch-MDN.