Posted 4/13/11 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
A realignment in high school baseball that moves Minot Ryan out of Watford City’s region could make the Wolves’ chances of advancing to State a little bit easier this season. And after losing to the Lions in the regional title game the last two years, you can’t blame the Wolves for being just a little bit excited about the prospect of not having to take on Minot Ryan again this season.
Under the new alignment, which was adopted by the North Dakota High School Activities Association, Watford City will compete in Region 7 along with Des Lacs-Burlington, New Town, Trinity Christian, Kenmare, and North Shore-Plaza-Parshall-Berthold.
“We expect to be the top team in our region,” states Justin Johnsrud, Wolves’ head coach. “But Trinity Christian, DLB and NSPPB will also have good teams.”
With snow covering the field, the Wolves were forced to start their indoor practice on March 21 in the hockey building.
“We hung the batting cage up so we could hit live in the cage, and do hitting drills on the outside,” stated Johnsrud. “We fielded grounders, took infield, and bullpenned our pitchers. It was a bit chilly, but at least, we didn’t need snowshoes.”
But with their regular field now drying out, Johnsrud hopes to have the team practicing in outside conditions this week.
“We will be one of the first teams in our area that will be able to practice outdoors,” states Johnsrud. “We’ve already had to back up the start of our schedule by one week because New Town’s field is not ready.”
According to Johnsrud, if the weather holds, the Wolves will open their home season on Thursday against DLB.
With 19 players out for baseball this season, Johnsrud looks for his returners to provide the nucleus of another winning season.
“We return seven starters from last year’s Region 7 runner-up team,” states Johnsrud. “Trey Jacobson and Douglas Rolfson will anchor our pitching staff, while Nick Liebel, Paul Martin and the underclassmen will all see time on the mound.”
With graduation leaving a couple of defensive holes to fill, and two of last year’s starters unable to play at the start of the season, Johnsrud is looking for some younger players to fill their shoes. With Lucas Nicholson, who broke an ankle in basketball, and Douglas Nordby, who is recovering from surgery on his wrist, sidelined for part, if not all of the season, Johnsrud will need some underclassmen to step up.
“Typically, defense is the key early in the year until everyone finds their rhythm at the plate,” states Johnsrud. “Hopefully solid pitching and defense will carry us through the first few games.”
Offensively, Johnsrud says that the Wolves will have good speed at the top of the order, and that will be a key to getting runners into scoring position.
“Our returning players had 51 stolen bases last year,” states Johnsrud. “We need to concentrate on having good at bats and getting on base, so we can utilize our speed.”