Working out kinks
It’s not as if the Rugby High School baseball team has had much time before and between its first four games of the season to actually prepare on a diamond.
The Panthers (0-4 overall, 0-1 District 5) are winless and showing rust at the plate and in the field. RHS has been outscored 36-6, but coach Kendall Schieve saw encouraging signs in a doubleheader at Velva on April 11. The Aggies swept the Panthers 8-1 and 9-2.
“In the first game against Velva, guys started getting more comfortable at the plate,” Schieve said. “Guys weren’t as jumpy.”
Following a week of more favorable weather, the team was back inside for practice this week. Temperatures dipped back into the 20s, snow fell and district games against North Star and Harvey-Wells County had to be postponed due to the cold.
“As bad as I hate it, the guys all came back (inside) with a good attitude,” Schieve said.
The third-year head coach added that there are some advantages to being indoors. His team can comfortably focus on fundamentals and clean up troublesome technique from the first slate of games.
The Panthers didn’t have a hit in the season-opener against Bishop Ryan, but reached base eight times in a 9-3 loss to Bottineau on April 10 at RHS.
“We we’re making good, solid contact and started hitting the gaps,” RHS junior Eric Hooker said. “They shouldn’t have had nine runs, but it’s early and we weren’t playing in peak form.”
Junior pitcher Eli Luna (Towner) was charged with the loss. The Braves had 17 hits, but RHS scored all its runs in the sixth inning as players found a groove. Three errors didn’t help the home team’s cause.
“Our fielding is fine, we’re just making (silly) errors,” RHS sophomore Hunter Hager said. “If we clean this up we’ll be fine.”
Not having seen hops on a field much hasn’t helped, but Hager isn’t looking for excuses.
“Practice is practice,” he said. “We’re going to do well with what we got.”
At Velva, the Panthers made two errors in the opening game and none in the second. Hooker took the loss in the first game and Hager was charged with his first loss in the second game.
“They’re a top-10 team in the state for sure,” Hooker said. “Our pitching did well, but our defense struggled. That will get better and you’ll see progress coming through. Every at-bat, every one gets better and the same in the field.”
RHS managed just five hits in the doubleheader and gave up 20.
Schieve saw improvement throughout his lineup and was especially impressed with the strides of sophomore Blaine Rosencrans at the plate. Rosencrans led the team against Bottineau, finishing 2 for 4 with an RBI and run scored. He was 0 for 4 against Velva, but scored a run.
Hooker was 1 for 2 with a run scored to lead the Panthers in the first Velva game. Luna was 1 for 3 with a pair of RBIs to lead RHS in the nightcap.
The North Star game will be made up in a doubleheader May 1 in Rugby.
The Harvey-Wells County game is rescheduled as part of a district doubleheader on May 5 in Harvey.
The team’s series with district foe Dunseith has also been rearranged. The teams will play at Dunseith on April 24 and at Rugby on May 13.
The Panthers’ next scheduled game is against Northern Lights at Rolette on Monday.
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