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Rolette-R-S is top seed heading into Region 5 Baseball Tournament

By Staff | May 13, 2009

Rolette-Rolla-St. John’s season began with an upset win over No. 1 ranked Munich-Starkweather-North Star, and the hits just kept on coming for the Comets.

The squad posted a 9-1 regular season mark and head into this week’s Region 5 baseball tournament full of confidence as the top seed and tourney host.

“We’ve beaten some good teams, and we have had a lot of players step up,’ said Comet first-year coach Jesse Vote. “We’re playing well in all areas but understand there is more to accomplish.”

And that would be a region title and a berth in the Class B state tournament. R-R-S last did that in 2006.

Three wins this week will punch the Comets’ ticket to state, but it won’t come easily, especially since the team will be without one of its top pitchers in Dillon Dionne. The junior suffered a broken leg at school and is out for season, Vote said.

As result, the pitching depth is a bit shallower for the Comets, and Josh Casvant and Nic Pfeifer will be called upon. “They need to be our horses,’ Vote said. “Hopefully, they can pitch well.”

Jaden Pfeifer and Blake Nelson can also throw, but Vote would like to keep them at their positions in the field – Pfeifer at shortstop and Nelson behind the plate.

The Comets’ offense has averaged over six runs per game, and that has taken a lot of pressure off the pitching staff. Vote hopes the bats will remain hot at the tournament. “We have three or four kids who have kept improving as we have moved along this spring,’ he said. “We need those contributions to continue.”

Evan Counts, J. Pfeifer, N. Pfeifer and Blake Nelson have been the most consistent hitters.

R-R-S will face No. 4 Rugby in the quarterfinals this Monday, May 18, beginning at 12 noon. The teams split their two games in the regular season, each winning at home.

Rugby started the spring, winning its first two region games, but has struggled since, especially offensively. That will have to turn around this week if the Panthers want any chance of upending the Comets.

Despite several losses of late, Rugby coach Jim Cameron has seen some glimmers of hope in his young team. The key is putting together a complete seven-inning game. “Mental errors have just killed us this spring,’ he said. “We just need to be sharper, and things will begin to fall our way.”

Rugby has just four wins this season, but two have come against two region regular season champions – Rolette-R-S and Kenmare.

“We have it in us to compete against good competition, but we just have to be mentally prepared and make the routine plays,’ Cameron said.

No 2 Munich-Starkweather-North Star will face No. 3 Bottineau in the other quarterfinal. The Magicians defeated the Braves in both games this season.

M-S-NS entered the season as the two-time defending region champion and favorite to repeat. Despite two losses in region play, the Magicians can’t be counted out, and if they can win the tournament, it would mark the the first time a region team has won three straight titles.

Bottineau has been an up and down team all spring. They do have wins over Rolette-R-S and defending state champion Grafton.

The key player is pitcher Andy Erickson, who may get the start against the Magicians. Pitching depth has been a concern for the Braves, and that may get exposed in the tournament.

Quarterfinal winners will advance to the semifinals on Tuesday, May 19 while the losers will square off in a loser-out game later on May 18. Tournament play will wrap up on Wednesday, May 20 with the championship.

Region 5 notes

The last non-No. 1 seed to win the region tournament was Rolette-Rolla in 2006…Rugby trailed at one point in all six of its region regular season games but still managed a 2-4 mark…Rolette-Rolla-St. John had two pitchers throw no-hitters this spring (Nic Pfeifer and Blake Nelson)…The Class B state tournament is in Mandan May 28-30…

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