With the postseason approaching quickly, the Minot High baseball team is on quite a roll.
The Magicians hit three homers and got some strong pitching from Carson Tonini and Lofton Klabunde in sweeping a doubleheader from the Mandan Braves on Tuesday at Veterans Memorial Ballpark.
Minot scored nine runs late in the opener, turning a 4-4 tie into a 13-4 victory. In the second game, Klabunde led the way at the plate and on the mound in a 6-1 decision that helped the Magicians pick up their 20th win of the season, clinch the No 2 seed for the West Region tournament and finish the regular season on an eight-game winning streak.
“I thought our pitchers set a nice tone for us throwing strikes,” Minot coach Pete Stenberg said. “And then we hung in there long enough in the first game to get things going a little bit there.
“I think we were a little anxious to start off with, putting ourselves in some bad counts and swinging at some bad pitches. But we were patient enough and came around and swung some pretty good bats and started picking guys up once we had runners on base.”
“They swing the bat well and they hit the ball hard,” Mandan coach Dewitt Mack said. “You have to try and keep up with that. It’s tough.”
Minot 13, Mandan 4
Mandan took advantage of a pair of Minot miscues to take an early lead, but Minot put the game away with a pair of big innings late.
The Magicians scored nine runs over the final two frames to turn a 4-4 tie into a nine-run victory.
“We ran out of gas a little bit on the hill and tried to come in and shut the door a bit and they just kept swinging it pretty well,” Mack said.
The Braves loaded the bases when leadoff hitter Ian Longtin reached first on a wild pitch, Cole Schmidt reached on an error on a grounder to second and Jaxson Duttenhefer drew a one-out walk. Noah Gerhardt drove in a run on an infield single to deep short, and a second run came home on an errant throw to first to give the Braves an early two-run advantage.
Minot took the lead in the top of the second. Tonini lined a single to center to lead off the frame, went to third on an errant pickoff attempt and scored on a passed ball. Alex Schimke followed with a solo homer over the screen in left field.
Kyler Stenberg’s two-out, two-run double to the wall in left center made it 4-2 Magicians.
Mandan tied it up with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Braves loaded the bases on a Gerhardt double, a walk to Easton Miller and a bunt dingle down the third-base line by Conner Seefeld. Easton Andresen singled to center, pulling Mandan within a run. Ian Longtin tied it up by plating a run with a bunt down the first base line.
Schimke walked to lead off the top of the sixth and came in to score on Derek Nygaard’s double to center, giving Minot a 5-4 lead. Klabunde’s two-out, bases-loaded single up the middle brought home two more runs to give Minot a 7-4 lead. Tonini followed with an infield RBI single and Schimke’s double down the left-field line brought home two more runners for a 10-4 Minot lead. The Magicians sent 11 batters to the plate in the frame, scoring six runs on four hits.
Klabunde added a two-run double and Johnny Tubbs an RBI single in the seventh to make it 13-4 Magicians.
After allowing two runs in the first, Tonini settled in, allowing only two runs on three hits over the final six frames. He limited Mandan to four runs on four hits, walking three and striking out 12. Tonini retired 10 straight batters at one point and 11 of the last 13 he faced, working around a walk and a fielder’s choice in the seventh.
It was the Magicians’ fourth complete-game pitching effort in their last five outings.
“Tonini is a very good pitcher,” Mack said. “He was throwing the ball well and his offspeed was catching us off guard. He’s probably the best pitcher we’ve seen so far this year. He did a nice job, just kept us off balance.”
Tonini had three hits, and Stenberg and Klabunde each drove in four runs for Minot.
Minot 6, Mandan 1
Klabunde gave himself a two-run lead before he took the mound for his first pitch.
Minot struck quickly, as Stenberg singled to lead off the game and scored on Klabunde’s two-run homer to left.
He hit two homers in the contest, driving in three runs in a 6-1 win. On the mound, he limited the Braves to one run on two hits over six innings, walking two and striking out two.
Mandan got one run back in the home half of the first as Longtin singled and scored on a Quinn Halstengaard sacrifice fly to make it 2-1. But that was all the offense the Braves could muster against Klabunde and reliever Tubbs, who pitched the seventh.
Tubbs’ two-out bunt stayed just fair for an RBI single in the second, making it 3-1 Magicians.
Tonini’s two-out, two-run single in the fourth gave Minot (20-4, 13-3 West Region) a 5-1 lead and Klabunde’s second homer of the game, a solo shot in the sixth, made it a five-run lead.
“Lofton’s been really steady for us this year,” Stenberg said. “He’s a nice leader for us. He just quietly goes out and shows by example and he did it on the mound and with the bat today.”
Mandan (10-10, 9-7 West Region) hosts Century in a pair of West Region non-counters on Thursday and plays a non-region twin bill with West Fargo on Friday.
“We’ve got to get back on the winning side of things again,” Mack said. “We’re playing OK but we make mistakes at inopportune times and it kicks us in the butt.”