From Jordan Rheault's very first games as West Fargo's American Legion head baseball coach, his philosophy was on display. He believes pitching and defense win games, and he thought the Patriots did well in both from the opening pitch.
The Patriots committed zero errors and allowed five total runs over the course of two games as they took care of Fargo Post 400 14-4 in five innings and 5-1 in a non-conference doubleheader on Thursday, June 7, at Young Field. These marked the first games as the Patriots head coach for Rheault, who is West Fargo's third head coach in three seasons.
But even though the Patriots won both games, Rheault would've liked to have seen better offensive output. Even as young as he is at 24 years old, he's still not settling.
"For the most part, two wins is a good thing for our program to start the season off," Rheault said. "I think we're pretty strong across the board."
Drake Flesche has been eagerly awaiting the Legion season. The West Fargo graduate who won a state championship with the Packers in 2017 played for Bismarck State College in the spring, but that season has been over for more than a month.
"It's pretty nice to get on the field again," Flesche said. "It's the same old thing, same people and same stuff."
Flesche still wants to win games, and he said if the Patriots keep up their pitching and defense they could win a state championship this summer. He said the more years he's played during the Legion season, the more prepared and poised he's become. Playing in college only helped him improve even more.
"It's definitely a different game, but it just teaches you to work harder," Flesche said. "It's the same game though."
Andrew Enno, on the other hand, hasn't picked up a bat for the past year as he went to North Dakota State. While he did feel nervous playing again, he couldn't miss out on the chance to play.
"It's very exciting," Enno said. "It's a good experience and a lot of fun with all the players and a great coaching staff."
Enno said he's kept in touch with most of his teammates over the past year and feels like he fits right back in with the team. He said next year without playing Legion baseball will feel strange.
Although Flesche was playing in college, he said it felt nice to play baseball back in town. He said having Rheault as the head coach didn't change his plans, considering how he was familiar with Rheault since the eighth grade.
"I've always thought I would come back," Flesche said. "I like playing ball for West Fargo."
Rheault said his pitching staff is likely the strength of the team with strong arms that can throw a variety of pitches and breaking balls.
"We just have to play a really high level of defense and find any way to get runs across," Enno said. "Athletic ability plays a huge role, and then our pitching staff is really good at throwing strikes and are really tough to hit."
Rheault said he had individual player meetings with players a day before the first games against Post 400. He's been around these players as a coach before, so he feels comfortable with the environment as a head coach now.
"They're certainly a determined group, but they also like to have fun," Rheault said. "They know how to have fun, but they also know how to win."
With the combination of the Packers, West Fargo Sheyenne players and some present college players, Rheault has hopes of winning the state title this year.
"That's certainly something we're going to strive for," Rheault said.