Posted 4/07/10 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
After losing to Minot Bishop Ryan in the regional title game last year, Watford City High School’s baseball team is looking forward to the start of a new year and another chance to make it the State Tournament. And Justin Johnsrud, Wolves’ head baseball coach thinks that this year’s squad has what it takes to get there.
“As a first year team last year we finished second in the Region only one win away from going to the State Tournament,” states Johnsrud. “The experience we gained last year is invaluable. Last year everyone was just excited about being able to play high school baseball.”
But according to Johnsrud, this year the team has a whole different attitude.
“The kids have come in with a different attitude this season,” states Johnsrud. “This year, the attitude is different at practice. The boys are working hard at getting better and have a goal of making it to the State Tournament.”
The Wolves will have five returning starters when they open their 2010 season on Friday when they host the Williston JV at 4 p.m.
Returning starters are Trey Jacobson, short stop; Dillon Langerud, catcher and second base; Ben Haugeberg, first base; Douglas Rolfson, third base; and Reid Johnson, outfield.
“We also have Karson Knudtson, second base, and outfielder Paul Martin returning,” states Johnsrud. Both of these players saw a lot of playing time during the Region Tournament.
Taking on the pitching duties for the Wolves will be returners Trey Jacobson, Doug Rolfson, Dillon Langerud and Ben Haugeberg, while Johnsrud will also have Lucas Nicholson, Nick Leibel and Paul Martin working the mound.
“Our strengths this year are based on experience,” states Johnsrud. “Having a year under our belt is a big benefit. We started last year with five or six players that had not played baseball in a few years. Teaching the mental part of the game was something we spent a lot of time on.” According to Johnsrud, a lot of time last season was spent on teaching the players such things as where to go with the ball when it is hit at them, what could happen in various situations, going to the plate with a plan, and base running.
“With the experience from last year we have been able to concentrate on hitting and fielding a little more this year,” states Johnsrud.
While the Wolves would like to earn a trip to the State Tournament, they know that one team is going to be tough for them to beat.
“Bishop Ryan is the clear favorite in the region,” states Johnsrud. “They are the three time defending State Champs and lost only one player from last year’s team. We are confident that if we play well we can compete with them this year.”
Last year, the Wolves split with Ryan during the regular season and then lost to the Lions 5-4 in the Region Championship game.
“We are excited about the season this year. We only played half of our schedule last year due to the weather conditions,” states Johnsrud. “This year we will play a full schedule which gives us more game time experience, more at bats, and more chances to improve before the Region Tournament. If we can eliminate mistakes on defense and put the ball in play at the plate we should have another successful season.
Other teams in the region are Bishop Ryan, Des Lacs-Burlington, Kenmare, New Town, North Shore-Parshall-Plaza-Berthold (NSPPB) and Trinity Christian.