New-look baseball team ready for season
Despite the piles of snow and frigid temperatures, my calendar is telling me that Spring has begun, and with it comes a fresh batch of new Packer sports to enjoy.
Perhaps the most interesting of those will be the West Fargo baseball team, who went 33-5 overall last season and won their first state championship.
However, last season’s team heavily relied on 10 seniors, and are going into the 2013 season with little varsity experience.
“It was a fantastic year all around,” head coach Brett Peterson said. “We had great leadership. It was an experienced team. We had the preseason No. 1 ranking, and we handled that well and took care of business all year and did what we set out to do from the get-go. It was good for our underclassmen to see the work ethic of some of those seniors.”
The short list of returning varsity players includes center fielder and leadoff hitter Kory Wolden and ace pitcher Camran Bonnema. The rest of the roster should see some big changes.
“Going into last year, almost everyone had varsity experience so we were able to hit the ground running,” Petersonsaid. “The biggest difference this year is experience. We have guys that have the potential to step up and have an impact this year, but it will depend on how fast they adjust to the varsity game, especially offensively. I think we’ll throw strikes and have guys that can be successful on the mound. It is just a matter of how fast we can get acclimated to the varsity game.”
Bonnema, now a senior, was one of four main pitchers that Peterson utilized last season. The other three have since graduated, which means Bonnema will probably be on the mound in most big games.
“He’s definitely one of the better pitchers in the state, for sure in the East,” Peterson said. “We’ll definitely lean on him on the mound, but besides Camran, we’re not going to have a dominant, 10-strikeout-a-game guy, but in the wood-bat game, it comes down to throwing strikes and making the other team put the ball in play. We’ll play capable defense along with that.”
Peterson, entering his 10th year as the Packers head coach, believes that the Eastern Dakota Conference will be “pretty wide open” – with a strong possibility of six or seven teams taking the top spot – but likes his team’s chances.
“We expect to still compete for a top-four spot in the EDC and get back to the state tournament,” Peterson said. “Once you’re there, anything can happen. A lot of the teams in the East, like us, have one standout pitcher, so it will really come down to what the No. 2, 3 and 4 guys can do for each team.”
Despite some stiff competition in the conference, Peterson fears the Packers’ biggest obstacle to success may not be any particular team, but rather the elements.
“The weather is really a wild card,” Peterson said. “Last year, the first day of practice was 76 degrees and we were on the baseball field. That will probably never happen again. This is more normal, but we’re looking at a few weeks before doing anything outside. We might have to play 20 games in May and go six or seven deep in the pitching rotation.”
The Packers are scheduled to play their first game, weather permitting, on Tuesday against the Wahpeton Huskies.