By Harry Lipsiea
Devils lake High School head baseball coach Justin Bear is looking forward for the snow to melt and the baseball diamond to clear up for several reasons. For starters, the squad is excited to work on drills outside after more than three weeks of practicing in the confines of indoor facilities.
By Harry Lipsiea Devils lake High School head baseball coach Justin Bear is looking forward for the snow to melt and the baseball diamond to clear up for several reasons. For starters, the squad is excited to work on drills outside after more than three weeks of practicing in the confines of indoor facilities.
“Practice has went alright so far,” Bear told the Journal. “We’ve tried to get outside to find a patch of grass or a parking lot to work on some ground balls, but we’ve been inside most of the time and that can get kind of tedious. The kids have been working hard.”
With a good amount of practices under the team’s belt, the Firebirds are itching to play their first game of the season. Right now, the squad is scheduled to take on Grand Forks Central Tuesday on the road. While the possibilities of that game being played are up in the air, the chances are greater that Devils Lake will open up its season in Wahpeton Saturday, April 12.
“Getting those games early can be very important,” he stated. “After practicing for a month or so, it’s always nice to see where you are at.” The Devils Lake coaching staff is particularly excited to get a look at where the team is at this season. The Firebirds feature a youthful team for the 2014 campaign. While the group is young and fairly inexperienced, the promise is extremely high, Bear pointed out.
“The potential is definitely very high,” the coach stated. “I’m really excited to see where our players are at once we start playing games. The talent is there and I’m looking forward to see how that talent and potential translates at the varsity level.”
The Firebirds return a core of athletes with returning varsity experience in senior Austin Moser and juniors Jordan Swanson, Andrew Bertch, Landen Hall, Holden Kurtz and Frank Knowski. Bertch returns as the individual who logged the most innings on the hill as a pitcher for Devils Lake last season. Jordan Swanson and Holden Kurtz also pitched a year ago for the Firebirds.
Bringing experience to the infield are shortstop Jordan Swanson, catcher Landen Hall as well as Holden Kurtz and Frank Knowski. Austin Moser is expected to help patrol the outfield. The rest of the lineup will be made up of newcomers to the varsity game.
“After that, we will rely on a lot of younger players,” the coach commented. “Each player has shown tremendous potential and we are excited to see their progress that is made throughout the season.”
Team defense and speed are among strengths of this year’s Firebird squad, Bear added.
“I think our defense should be a positive for us,” he commented. “We also have several players with a lot of speed, so we will look to move our base runners around quite a bit this season.”
For now, the team continues to work hard inside and get outside when the opportunity presents itself. It has been important to have a strong mental approach when it comes to practicing indoors.
“We have tried to keep things fairly light, but very focused,” he commented. “You don’t want to burn out the players, but it’s important to stay sharp and be prepared once the games get going.”
If weather continues to be a factor and games are postponed throughout the season, it can be vital for North Dakota baseball teams to learn on the fly.
“It’s possible that we may be playing two or three doubleheaders a week in May again this season,” Bear noted. “That puts pressure on your pitching as well as makes every practice you have that much more important.”
The excitement is high for the start of the season as the young Firebirds prepare to take the field for the very first time.
“I’m very excited to see where the team is at,” he said.