By Harry Lipsiea
For the first time seven years in the program's history, the Nelson County American Legion baseball team has qualified for the State Class B tournament. It's been quite a run for head coach Brent Luehring and the Owls this season.
By Harry Lipsiea For the first time seven years in the program's history, the Nelson County American Legion baseball team has qualified for the State Class B tournament. I
t's been quite a run for head coach Brent Luehring and the Owls this season. After starting the season off with a record of 2-7, the team is currently in the middle of a hot streak winning 19 of its 23 games.
Behind returning starters Dakota Hoyt, Riley Nelson and Hunter Engel along with a talented group of newcomers, Nelson County is looking to make a splash at the state tournament.
"Everyone's just really excited about it," Luehring stated about the tournament. "Right now, we're just resting our arms and gearing up for state."
To put it simply, the Owls come into the state tournament battle tested. After topping Harwood 5-2 in its first game, the squad fell 9-3 against Carrington.
"After that loss, I just told the kids that it's a one-game season the rest of the way," the head coach said. "We knew we just had to take it one step at a time." The journey back to the winner's bracket was hard-fought from the start. Nelson County survived a 1-0 nine-inning battle against May-Port. The Owls followed the game up with a 10-6 victory over the top-seeded Express of Gardner.
"The game against May-Port was an extremely tough game. Riley Nelson was just fantastic on the mound for us and we capitalized on a mistake to walk away with a win," the coach said. "Against Gardner, we just took care of business and had a couple big innings late."
Against Hatton, Nelson County punched its ticket to the state tournament with a 5-2 victory.The Flyers led early, but a key two-run homer by Jayden Grover and strong pitching by Tyler Gravseth led the team to victory.
"It was another tough win for us," he stated. "To qualify for state by picking up three straight victories was awesome. Very proud of our effort."
The squad ultimately took second in the tournament after dropping a back-and-forth 7-6 loss in eight innings at the hands of Carrington. Despite falling, Luehring was pleased with his team's performance.
"It was a battle the entire way," he commented. "Both teams played well and it just came to a timely hit or two."
Now, the squad is preparing for its first state tournament performance. The Owls take on Thompson in the first round Wednesday in Langdon at 4 p.m. The two teams were scheduled to play during the regular season, but due to weather and a need for make-up dates the game never took place.
Now, the two squad are ready to face off.
"They are a good baseball team," the coach noted. "Thompson has a very solid program and is very well coached."
For Luehring, the key to a successful tournament performance will be concentrating on what the team can do rather than worry about their opponents.
"I think if we play to our strengths, we should put ourselves in a pretty good position," he stated. "It's going to be a pretty wide open tournament."
The Owls are excited about wrapping up an excellent season with a positive experience at state.
"They are just great kids. It's been tons of fun watching this group get better day-in-and-day-out," Luehring said. "It's been an awesome summer."