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Baseball team looks to build on past success

Senior Noah Paper works out at shortstop as the West Fargo baseball team practices Thursday at the Lodoen Center Gym. Dave Wallis1 / 2
West Fargo baseball team members run through warm-up throws Thursday at the Lodoen Center Gym. Dave Wallis2 / 2

Last season, the Packers baseball team ranked fourth in the Eastern Dakota Conference on opening day. They then went on to have a 20-3 record, win the conference championship and finish second in the state tournament.

“We had 33 practices inside before we got outside once (last season), and I don’t feel like the kids ever came to practice and just went through the motions, which could easily have happened,” head coach Brett Peterson said. “The guys came and worked, and they bought into what we were trying to do.”

That team – much like their state champion 2012 team – relied heavily on its senior class.

“We are really in the same boat this year,” Peterson said. “You don’t know how fast those guys are going to get acclimated to the varsity game. It is a whole different story, especially when you are facing a varsity pitcher.”

The Packers – again ranked fourth in preseason polls – have just four players returning from last year with any varsity experience at the plate. They also have just two pitchers returning – seniors Chase Gooding and Noah Paper – who combined for just 8 1/3 innings for the team last season. They did, however, get plenty of on-the-mound experience in legion baseball this summer.

Peterson believes that the team will not have to rely on those two, as the team has a number of athletes who can potentially throw strikes on a regular basis.

“It always starts there – with throwing strikes and getting the other team to put the ball in play,” Peterson said. “We are probably going to be able to look at more guys this year who can throw strikes. I don’t know if we have that clear one-two… but there are guys who have that potential.”

Peterson sees his team being solid in the field as well, but finds it difficult to gauge how well the Packers will be at the plate while the team practices indoors, as the batting cages do not offer the authentic feeling of an actual batter’s box.

“You can hit balls in the cage all day long, but until you actually get outside and are facing pitchers, it’s hard to say where that is going to be,” Peterson said. “Our big question mark right now, at least until we get to playing, is how we are going to score runs.”

Scoring wasn’t a problem for the team during the doubleheader on Saturday, as they beat Bismarck St. Mary’s by scores of 11-0 and 11-6 on Shiloh Christian School’s turfed field.

After getting a taste of outdoor baseball, the Packers now move back into the gym, likely for the next few weeks.

This is not too great a concern for Peterson, as his team seems to shake the rust off quickly once they get outside, but their is a small fear of arm injuries once games start, as the athletes are not able to play “long toss” indoors and therefore cannot fully stretch out their arms.

Despite the continued indoor time, the Packers’ coach fully expects to be a top-four team in the EDC.

“We want to get out of that EDC tournament and into the state tournament,” Peterson said. “Once you get into a format like that, where you just have to win three games in three days, anything can happen.”

The team is scheduled to face Davies in a doubleheader on Thursday and North in a doubleheader on Tuesday. Provided they are not postponed, both games will start at 5 p.m.