Legion baseball: 'Roller coaster' season for Patriots, so far
Last season, under the guidance of then-coach Shannon Miller, the West Fargo Patriots American Legion baseball team went to the state tournament for the first time in four years.
Though only a No. 7 seed, they made an immediate impact by knocking out No. 2 Williston in the opening round. But their race to a title was cut short after getting bumped out of the running from losses to Mandan and Minot.
This season, the Patriots have another new coach and another shot at redemption.
"The kids are a cut above. They've been well coached," said Bill Ibach, the Patriots head coach.
Ibach was assistant coach with West Fargo last season, and spent 13 years coaching in Fargo before that. Joining him is assistant coach Jeremy Newman, who played under Ibach in Fargo.
"He's very knowledgeable, and really relates well with the kids," Ibach said.
So far, the Patriots are trying to "work out the kinks," Ibach said. West Fargo started out winning four of their first six games, but followed that by losing four of their last five.
"It's been a roller-coaster kind of season," Ibach said. "We're kind of nicked up right now."
Andy Young, a sophomore with the Packers this past season, is out with a broken wrist. Spencer Flaten, who has historically been one of the Patriots' top players, "can't throw right now," Ibach said.
"We also have a couple guys with sore arms," he said. "When we get everything going, though, it should be a good year."
With several Packers fresh off a successful prep season on the squad, plus talent from around the Fargo-Moorhead area, it is just a matter of time before the Patriots start firing on all cylinders the carnage they are capable of.
One player who's made an immediate impact is Chance Bitzer. Bitzer "is a Moorhead High kid who plays summer baseball with us," Ibach said.
Bitzer has been racking up the points for West Fargo, and currently is 17-of-30 with four home runs. He also has "pitched pretty well," Ibach said.
Overall, Ibach is very happy with the athletes he has under him this season.
"We have as good a group of kids as a guy could hope to work with," he said. "It makes it fun to go to the ballpark.
And the parents have been going above and beyond, too.
"It's unbelievable," Ibach said. "There are parents everywhere and working hard for the program."
The Patriots were scheduled to face the Moorhead Blues on Tuesday for a doubleheader, but results were not in by press time. West Fargo is out of the state for much of the week, but will be up in Grand Forks on June 29, to face the Royals at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.