Cooper a ‘grinder’ in first year with Vistas

In 28 games, Dalton Cooper has far exceeded the expectations that comes with being a first-year player for the Minot Vistas American Legion baseball team.

He’s producing at the plate, in the field and on the mound. Whether he’s backing up Grant Larson at first base, Brady Lampert at third or in relief on the hill, Cooper has been a diamond in the rough for the Vistas this season.

“He’s a grinder,” Minot coach Todd Larson said. “He’s going to produce and do the little things. He’s a good teammate and we’re very happy with the results he’s produced.”

Cooper is one of eight batters hitting above .300 with an on-base percentage over .400. He is batting .338 and reaching base in over 40 percent of his at-bats. Cooper’s batting average reached as high as .389 following a 2-for-3 performance against Williston on June 21. His 11 strikeouts is third-fewest among players with at least 70 plate appearances.

Cooper boasts a .426 slugging percentage at .426 with two home runs and three doubles to go along with 19 singles. He’s driven in 17 runs and scored 15 more.

“Offensively, he’s been good,” Todd Larson said. “He’s been hitting that baseball from the middle part of the plate away, hitting it to the opposite field well. He struggled a little bit in the spring with us at Minot High but has really worked hard and is just a great kid. You see a lot of good things happen when Dalton is swinging the bat.”

When Grant Larson and Lampert are on the mound, Cooper is the one to fill their position. With a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 54 total chances, Cooper is proving to be worthy of the opportunity. He has 51 putouts, three assists and has helped turn three double plays.

Cooper said it doesn’t matter to him where he plays. He’s happy at any position.

“I just really like to play the game,” Cooper said. “Wherever they put me I’ll play.”

Perhaps Cooper’s biggest contribution to Minot in his first year has been his production as a relief pitcher. Cooper has a team-high three wins in 19 1/3 innings – all in relief. He went two or more innings in his first five appearances and recorded wins against Jamestown, Williston and Mandan.

“He’s really surprised me,” Todd Larson said. “He’s had a nice year. He leads the team in wins. He hasn’t had a start yet for us, but he’s pitched well in relief and has really carved out a nice niche as far as a relief pitcher goes.”

Cooper has been a pitch-to-contact pitcher this year, which he doesn’t mind with the way the defense has been playing behind him.

“I just throw strikes and let my defense do the work,” Cooper said. “We have a great defense. I have a lot of confidence in my defense. We’ve had a lot of success.”

Aside from leading the team in wins, Cooper also leads the team with a 2.234 ERA. He’s allowed 12 runs – eight earned – on 25 hits, striking out four and walking seven. Cooper’s 10 appearances is tied for the team lead with Grant Larson.

“He pounds the strike zone,” Todd Larson said. “He’s going to put the ball in play, and when the ball is in play we seem to play a lot better defensively.”

Mike Kraft covers the Minot Vistas and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.