Three things each baseball and softball team must do to get back into swing of things
DEVILS LAKE – By the looks of it, high school baseball and softball action might finally crank into high gear.
Best to knock on wood first, though. Even if it is a superstition, better to be safe and not jinx it with another weather storm, right?
Regardless, each team will have a lot on their plate once they take to the diamond. After all, baseball and softball state tournaments are slated to take place in t-minus one month (Each 2022 NDHSAA State Tournament is tentatively scheduled for June 2-4). Due to weather, some teams have only taken in a handful of games. Others, meanwhile, have yet to log a single inning into the 2022 timesheet.
The question is simple: what will each team need to do to make up for the lost time in preparation for the inevitable stretch run? Here are three things each baseball and softball team will need to emphasize between now and then:
1. Stick to your brand
Although the team has yet to put in a game during the 2022 season, North Star Baseball head coach Jesse Vote has kept his squad frosty (no pun intended) and aware that there is still a season to be played.
Even still, any high schooler might become anxious once pitches are thrown. Perhaps batters begin to reach more in the hopes of producing a big hit right away. Pitchers might attempt to strike out every batter they face, pitch count aside. However, this way of thinking can become dangerous. And so, a team might steer away from their bread and butter.
The team’s philosophy must remain at the forefront – strong pitching and enough offense on the small-ball side to make it count. But, of course, this goes in conjunction with those who can also adjust on the fly.
“High school baseball is still high school baseball,” Vote said. “At this point, it’s going to be who can throw strikes and who can adapt to the outdoor environment the quickest. We are pretty much squeezing a season into [two-and-a-half] weeks before our region tourney starts.”
Such will be the case for any baseball or softball team looking to succeed on the field. Sticking to your guns (or, in this case, bats and arms) and not changing anything drastic will be critical to a smoother transition from practice sessions to in-game competition.
2. Keep it fluid
Courtney Loegering’s softball team finally got in a game last week. While the Devils Lake Firebirds lost their opening contest to Fargo North, 16-2, on April 28, more than two dozen practices prior will set the tone in a positive way.
To Loegering, playing loose also proved to be a deciding factor, even if it did not lead to a win in the box score. However, with a touch of youth, Loegering believes her team will take their chemistry and play to the best of their abilities, wins and losses aside.
“We have a young team, so we are all patiently waiting to see what this group of girls can do together,” Loegering said. “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.”
At times, simply playing the game today instead of thinking about the game tomorrow is critical to a team’s overall success on and off the field.
3. “We’re talking about practice.”
The basketball player in Allen Iverson might have had a point when he mentioned the infamous quote during a post-practice media scrum all those years ago. The region’s local baseball and softball players must keep pace and make every session count.
“Indoor practices get pretty monotonous since there is only so much you can do inside,” Vote said. “We have been pitching every practice and working on our swings in the cage because we know any day now, we could get a chance to play a game without having a single full practice outside. It’s hard to get ourselves motivated being inside every day, but we just need to make sure we have our mental and communication things figured out, so when that game pops up, we only have to worry about the physical part of the game.”
“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.”
Practice might not make perfect, but it will undoubtedly make the team more adaptable to adversity. Such will be the case for each team as they work toward regional and state tournaments.
John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.