Patriots get help from 'comeback' players
Midway through the regular season, the West Fargo Patriots have had had plenty of success on both sides of the ball, and some of that success is due to two guys who have been out of town for most of the year.
Jamestown College freshmen and Packer alums Andy Young and Landon Uetz, both 19, are still within the age limit to participate in Legion baseball and have returned to contribute at the plate, in the field and on the mound for the Pats.
After a season of college baseball, both players agree it is a bit easier to return to Legion ball.
"It's a little slower here," Young said. "In college, you are up against 24-year-olds and everyone here is 17 or 18, so you can expect what's coming a little better."
Shortstop Young and third baseman Uetz were members of the West Fargo Packers 2012 state championship team, a group of 10 seniors that found success at every level for the better part of the last decade. While this year's team is very different, neither sees the new team as a step back for the program.
"I don't feel like I know the player next to me as well, having played with that group for so long," Uetz said. "Everyone has different tendencies, but now that we are halfway through the season, I think I'm figuring things out."
"I grew up with that team," Young said. "We had been playing together since we were 10 years old. We won a lot of championships, and I'll never forget that. These guys are great though. It's not a weaker class at all."
Head coach Bill Ibach sees the two returning from a higher level of competition to be very beneficial to his younger players.
"It has been a good mix this year," Ibach said. "There was that core (the 2012 team) that had all this success, but the majority of them are gone. Now these guys are mixed with this younger group -- that is also really good -- and mixing well.
"Having guys like that back makes a big difference. The strength they have from playing at that higher level makes all the difference in the world. They were both strong last year, but they are noticeably stronger this year. As good as all of these players are, playing at the college level puts them a step ahead."
One of key aspects of their return, according to Ibach, is the leadership provided by these more experienced players.
"I think it comes naturally for them," Ibach said. "Leaders emerge from where they come from. These two are both fairly quiet guys, but they lead by example, as opposed to getting on people vocally. They are definitely guys that show those qualities."
Conversely, not only do the two not see themselves as the true leaders of this team, they see having a clear leader as unnecessary for the Pats.
"There really isn't a leader," Young said. "Landon and I do what we can, but this is a mature team that knows what to do."
Because of this, the two have set high expectations for the team.
"Obviously there are different kids this year that may not have been on last year's team, but our expectation is the same: to win a state championship," Uetz said.
Ultimately, both players simply want a summer season they can enjoy.
"This year has been one that I have been looking forward to for a while," Uetz said. "We've played with a lot of these kids for three or four years, so it's nice to come back from that year of college and make these friendships again."
"Andy and Landon are as great of two kids as you could have on a team," Ibach said. "I wish I had two guys like them every year."