Firebirds ready to take fields once more after blizzard woes

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – The ability to get in a game or two on the baseball or softball diamond has been difficult at best and practically impossible at worst.

Of course, the Devils Lake Firebirds have not needed a reminder saying as such. Once you factor in Devils Lake’s 3-1 baseball loss to Valley City on April 21, the Firebirds have played a grand total of one game since their doubleheader opener against Bismarck on April 1. Devils Lake Softball, meanwhile, has had it worse. Heading into April 25 action, the softball team has racked up five postponements or cancellations (dating back to April 5) and has yet to play a single game this season.

Devils Lake eagerly awaits the weather to clear up before baseball and softball action can consistently occur outdoors once more.

Such is the way North Dakota weather goes, sometimes. Since she took control of the program five years ago, Devils Lake Softball head coach Courtney Loegering has seen both extremes.

“Throughout the last five years, we have experienced opposite ends of the weather spectrum,” Loegering said. “Last season, we were spoiled and able to be outside on day one. A few years ago, we had a similar season to what we are experiencing now; endless snow, rain, and cold. Luckily, we have the facilities to practice inside. This isn't ideal, but we have been able to do fieldwork in the gym, get quicker and stronger in the weight room and improve our hitting and pitching skills at the Lake Region State College [LRSC] batting cage.”

Devils Lake Baseball head coach Brent Luehring shares a similar opinion to Loegering in that adaptation is critical.

Outside of Lake Region State’s batting cages, Luehring’s team has stayed sharp by using valuable gym space inside Sweetwater Elementary School and Central Middle School. This is in conjunction with an additional batting cage inside the latter's lunchroom. 

Luehring has emphasized the importance to not switch things up too much during each practice session.

“I think the biggest thing is not trying to change the game,” Luehring said. “It is still as simple as working on the fundamentals, making sure our pitchers have their arms in shape [and] making sure they are throwing on their throwing schedules every seven days. Just using the resources we have available to make sure they are trying to stay as sharp as they can, basically.”

Although indoor practices have started to get repetitious, each team has stayed upbeat. Continuing to stay sharp to the best of their ability has been the main goal. 

To Luehring, the circumstances have helped show how his team has developed from an intangible perspective.

“I have definitely seen the kids take a year of growth,” Luehring said. “We are definitely more mature than last year. I know that is figuratively and literally. They are a year more mature, but there are some kids that have taken some leadership roles that weren’t leaders last year. There are kids that are looking up to other kids. I know I have some young guys that played for us. I try to talk to the kids as much as I can to see how they are doing and what they need from me…our older kids are doing a good job of being leaders and doing what we need and answering their questions and helping them out.”

Indoor practice after indoor practice has made each team eager to consistently collect in-game experience once more.

As each program looks to find their way outdoors for the duration once more, chemistry will be critical should both teams look to keep any nervousness in check.

“We are extremely eager to get a game in,” Loegering said. “I would say we are mostly excited with a hefty amount of anxiousness thrown in. We have a young team so we are all patiently waiting to see what this group of girls can do together. We have developed a great deal of team chemistry. I cannot wait to see these girls and action, especially so they can see their hard work pay off.”

Contact John Crane via email (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter @johncranesports)