In a seven-day span, Casey Ryan made his first two starts of the American Legion season and proved himself worthy of consideration in the Minot Vistas' rotation.
Ryan, 19, improved to 2-0 as a starter as Minot beat Forest Lake (Minn.) 10-5 in the first game of a split doubleheader Sunday at Corbett Field. The visitors from the St. Paul suburb took the second game 10-1.
Ryan was perfect through the first three innings, pitching to contact and making three stops himself on balls driven back to the mound.
Minot Vistas pitcher Casey Ryan delivers a pitch in his team’s 10-5 win over Forest Lake (Minn.) on Sunday at Corbett Field.
"He threw well again tonight," Minot Vistas coach Todd Larson said. "Actually, he threw awesome. I think he finished with 72 pitches in a seven-inning baseball game and it was mostly his fastball he was using. Our catcher was calling off-speed stuff and kept getting shaken off there by Casey, so Casey threw just a heck of a ballgame."
After a 5-4 win over Fargo on July 8, Ryan quickly got another nod. The offense gave him early support with six runs through the first two innings Sunday and Larson extended the support. Ryan gave up three runs in the sixth inning, but was left in to complete the game.
"Just the confidence that coach had in me was just great," Ryan said. "Coach Larson said, 'Keep going Casey, you're gonna close this thing out,' and that gave me the confidence to go out there in the seventh."
The Dickinson State University redshirt freshman hopes to return to school this fall as an impact player.
"That's what I'm trying to do is have a good season here and transfer it over to that (college) season," Ryan said. "Pitching here and now was really good and it helped me get on my game to go into next season."
Throwing 13 strong innings in a week has renewed confidence in Ryan, who played much of the season as a second-game starter at third base and occasional reliever. He easily fielded two grounders in the first inning, sped to first to make two outs later in the game and snagged a high one-hopper off the foot of the mound in the third inning.
"That was actually kind of fun, just being athletic, because the first two were just straight at me," he said. "I would actually like to make a play."
The Vistas (18-12) only outhit Forest Lake 8-7, but two errors led to Minot runs. Hunter Oothoudt started the scoring with a two-run triple in the first. Brady Lampert smacked his third home run of the year, a fifth-inning blast, to also lead the Vistas with two RBIs.
"I thought we battled offensively against a pretty good team, a pretty good pitcher," Larson said. "I'm very, very happy with the game one results."
Larson was encouraged by Chandler Jacob's start in game two. Jacob is recovering from a sore shoulder and was limited to 60 pitches. He gave up two runs in the first inning, though the second run resulted from an error by catcher Jake Magnuson.
Forest Lake's lead ballooned with the struggles of relievers Grant Larson and Austin Eggl, who combined to give up the remaining eight runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
Forest Lake pitcher Jack Schmidt held the Vistas to just four hits in his complete game. Schmidt's split-finger fastball proved effective as he finished with six strikeouts and two walks.
"I have a split-finger that I probably haven't been throwing good at all this year and it finally kind of started working for me this game, so I had that going for me," Schmidt said.
Schmidt was as effective at the plate. He finished 4 for 4 on four singles with four RBIs and two runs scored.
Forest Lake (12-5) improved to 3-1 on its road trip, which included a sweep of Bismarck on Saturday. The No. 10 ranked team in Minnesota concludes its North Dakota swing with a nine-inning game at Mandan tonight.
"I think it's been a real positive experience for the guys," said Forest Lake coach Valdie Magstadt, a 2003 Beulah High School graduate. "We don't get to travel like this very often, so to get out on the road and just kind of be a team and play baseball has been a good experience and I think they're enjoying themselves."
Minot will travel to Forest Lake for a doubleheader next season. The Vistas are at Moorhead (Minn.) for a doubleheader at 5:30 p.m. tonight and return home for a twin bill against Dickinson at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Tim Chapman covers the Vistas and Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp