After winning the first game of their Minnesota roadtrip, the Minot Vistas dropped their next four, sinking two games below .500.
Now less than a week removed from their most recent loss, Minot has won four straight, including an American Legion doubleheader sweep of Devils Lake on Tuesday at Corbett Field.
The Vistas took the opener in six innings, punctuated by an Alex Mack two-run home run to left. Minot won that game 13-2, followed by a 14-0, five-inning victory in Game 2.
In addition to the 24 hits the Vistas accumplated throughout the two-game series, they also committed no errors, a trend that Minot coach Todd Larson is keen to see continue.
“I think we’re throwing more strikes as a pitching staff, and our defense is more alert, more ready to come and get baseballs, so that’s good,” Larson said. “I thought all our pitchers threw well tonight, and we’re just happy to be home and have a couple more wins.”
Grant Larson picked up the win for Minot (19-17) in Game 1, throwing five innings of three-hit baseball while surrendering two earned runs and striking out five.
Travis Walker was equally effective for Minot in the nightcap, giving up no runs on three hits over four innings.
Behind their starters, the Vistas converted each of their 21 putout opportunities in the field, including three double plays, all of which involved Minot shortstop Austin Eggl.
“(Defense) is huge for us,” Eggl said. “All season, we’ve had pretty good pitching performances, and we’ve had some games where errors have really cost us. For the most part, if we don’t commit errors, we’re typically winning the game.”
Eggl also enjoyed production at the plate, going a combined 6-for-8 while registering four RBIs and scoring twice.
Minot’s Hunter Duttenhefer continued swinging a hot bat, scoring three times in the doubleheader while reaching base safely in all but one at-bat.
“I’m real happy with the output tonight,” Todd Larson said. “We fed off of last night’s production and I think we got better tonight both in Game 1 and Game 2. Everybody, one through nine, was hitting different pitches and putting balls in play. We got guys on base and put some good swings on things. It’s good to see us improving.”
After taking a 3-0 first-inning lead in the opener, the Vistas tallied the same lead early in Game 2.
Seven more Minot runs in the third put the game out of reach for the Storm, a program very much in a rebuilding stage.
While it struggled to generate anything offensively, Devils Lake (10-11) also found difficulty in the field, committing a combined seven errors.
“Our defense let us down,” Devils Lake coach Randy Ostermiller said. “We don’t have overpowering pitchers, so we have to pitch to contact. And if we play defense we can stay with them. But the defense let us down tonight.”
Devils Lake pitchers also stuggled.
Game 1 starter Cooper Knoke allowed seven earned runs on 10 Minot hits. In the nightcap, Landyn Swenson – who in the opener drove in Devils Lake’s only two runs of the day – lasted fewer than three innings after a 10-run, six-walk performance.
But Ostermiller is confident that confident that his team will continue to improve. All 14 players on his roster plan to return to the Storm next summer.
“We have a very high ceiling,” Ostermiller said. “We have come a very long way from where we started. I’m very happy with the progress and where we’re at, but we need to go further to hang with a program like (the Vistas), an established program. We do have lapses, but it’s a young team and we have growing pains.”
The Vistas have today off before traveling for a single nine-inning game Thursday in Mandan.
Joe Mellenbruch covers legion baseball and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.