Bounce-back sweep

Defensive lapses and sub-par pitching plagued the Minot Metros on Thursday against Beulah. The same can’t be said for Saturday’s American Legion doubleheader at Corbett Field.

Crisp defense was Minot’s strongest ally against Fargo Post 400. Committing three errors over the two-game series – significantly less than the seven Minot committed Thursday – the Metros were clinical in the field en route to a doubleheader sweep.

Minot took the first game 10-0 in six innings, followed by a similarly lopsided 12-4 result in the nightcap.

“Defensively, we got out of some innings with double plays, made some nice plays that we’ve been working on in practice,” Minot coach Jason Steele said. “That’s nice to see. And for the most part, pitchers threw strikes. We walked a few too many, but we got out of it with our defense, and that was good.”

The Metros turned three double plays against the Expos.

Two of those came in key spots during the nightcap. Both involved Minot third baseman Trail Haskins.

With the Metros sporting an 8-4 lead after four innings, the first three Fargo batters reached safely in the fifth, loading the bases with Fargo third baseman Skylar Stevens at the plate representing the tying run.

Stevens swung at the first pitch he saw from Minot starter Noah Tate, sending a slow roller to Haskins at third.

Haskins fielded the grounder cleanly and connected with catcher Jesse Roberts for the force out at home. Roberts’ relay to first was in time to complete the 5-2-3 double play.

In the sixth, Haskins delivered again.

After a 5-3 putout, consecutive walks put two Fargo batters on base with one out. The Expos’ No. 3 hitter, Brennen Schreder, stepped to the plate with a chance to deflate Minot’s lead, but his swing sent the ball straight to Haskins, who stepped on third before throwing across the diamond for his team’s second double play in as many innings.

“Trail is very sound over there. He does a great job for us whenever he’s in,” Steele said. “He expects the baseball. He always knows where he’s going with it and makes the plays.”

Despite notching the win, Tate walked six Fargo batters, including three as part of a three-run fourth for the Expos.

After walking the bases loaded, Steele chatted with his starter.

“I basically just told him, ‘you’re one pitch away,'” Steele said. “He started throwing strikes and trusting his defense, and they made big plays for him.”

Sound defense can be a pitcher’s best friend.

It certainly was for Roberts in the opener. He tossed a complete-game shutout on the heels of an errorless performance by the Metros.

“As long as you get the pitches down, I trust them to make plays behind me,” Roberts said. “We never got down on ourselves today. We stayed up, kept each other going.”

Minot also performed at the plate. Ten different players scored runs on Saturday for the Metros, including three who scored at least three times.

The Metros scored in all but two innings.

“That’s good production for us. It’s what we want, what we expect,” Steele said. “Obviously you’re not gonna get that in every doubleheader, but it was nice to see.”

The Metros welcome Dickinson on Tuesday for a 5:30 p.m. doubleheader at Corbett Field. It is one of two doubleheaders remaining on Minot’s schedule prior to the state tournament, which begins July 23 in West Fargo.

Joe Mellenbruch covers Legion baseball and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.