Sheyenne-New Rockford ready to put aside weather, early season woes

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

NEW ROCKFORD – The Sheyenne-New Rockford Black Sox have had a hefty workload, to say the least. 

Any other team could sing a similar tune. Given recent weather lulls and postponements, each team has had to trek indoors, take practice swings and undergo pitching sessions inside gymnasiums, lunchrooms, and anywhere else that might even remotely provide cover. 

Of course, the Black Sox have also had to work around a rough stretch in the games they have been able to get in. After winning two of their first three games to open the 2022 season, the Black Sox, heading into May 5 action, have since dropped four contests by a combined score of 33-6, dating back to April 11. But wait, there’s more. The Black Sox are additionally under the tutelage of first-year head coach Jake Bilden, who took over control of the team from longtime head coach Elliott Belquist, who coached the team for 16 years. 

No matter, however. Even with a rough stretch under a new head coach, the Black Sox have not backed down from a challenge. If anything, they have accepted it with open arms. 

The Sheyenne-New Rockford Black Sox will look to put weather issues, early-season woes behind them in order to prevail during final push during 2022 season.

“I think we have a pretty good team,” Black Sox player Nicholas Berglund said. “We have a good chance. We all keep our heads up. Some of the games haven’t gone the way we wanted them to. The weather, but everyone has dealt with the weather, so we can’t just look at that. We have to keep on improving, and I think we have a great chance to go far in the tournament, so [I] can’t wait.” 

Berglund and Koby Duda are seniors that have been tasked with performing on the field and helping keep composure off of it, even when the results are not there. To the pair, senior leadership has been critical for a team adjusting to a newer look on the head-coaching front – not to mention the weather issues piled on top of that. 

“It is huge for us to be that mentor for them because when we were younger, we had great mentors to help us through stuff like that, and we have to keep their heads up because we thrive off of their cheering and their plays,” Duda said. “We have to keep them amped up so we can keep the season rolling.” 

Both Berglund and Duda have recognized a difference in coaching style under Bilden, varying from new signs to more emphasis on playing multiple positions. 

Even still, Bilden has recognized the importance of leaning on the more experienced players to ease the transition from one head coach to another. From Berglund and Duda’s leadership, Bilden has noticed a positive effect. 

These intangible traits will only serve the team for the better as the season begins to get going with regularity once more. 

“They [Berglund and Duda] have played the most, not just counting this year, but overall, they have played the most,” Bilden said. “We lean on their experience, their advice, their leadership and all of those things. Pointing it out earlier in the year, we are going to be do-or-die by our leadership and the role that they are going to take in doing that. I think, internally, we are getting better every day. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. So, I think, as we are coming down the stretch, we are seeing where we can improve, what we are already good at and finding who we are as a team through them.” 

With the Region 3 Baseball Tournament slated to take place in less than three weeks (May 23-25 at Carrington High School], players and coaches alike will need to sharpen up the defense, wind up the arms and bring out the bats for what will be a compiled schedule leading up to the occasion. 

“We have to focus up,” Duda said. “We have to put [it] in gear here and realize that we haven’t won a region game yet. We have to get back on the winning track so we can make a run at this tournament and make it for the state tournament.” 

Regardless of the adversity that has come their way, Bilden believes his team, spearheaded by Berglund and Duda, will be eager to complete the task ahead of them. 

Consider it another part of the workload. 

“They have handled it well,” Bilden said. “They are mature. We have been inside two out of the last three weeks, but they haven’t been bothered by it at all. They go inside and are ready to work the moment we step in there. They are dialed in the whole time, and it says a lot about not just the group as a whole but the leadership we have that is being carried down from the seniors to the juniors [and] to the sophomores. I am really excited about the direction we are going to finish the year off stronger than when we started.” 

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 (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.