Panthers ‘having fun and working hard’ ahead season
Despite a brisk, chilling wind, the Rugby Panthers ran eagerly onto Johnsen field March 25 for a workout and a few innings of baseball practice.
“They’re having fun and working hard. Everyone’s out here with smiles on their faces and good attitudes and I think they’re just excited to get back to baseball again,” said Panthers Head Coach Travis Risovi.
The Panthers sat the 2020 season out due to spring sports cancellations caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s really nice,” Risovi said of the dry, windy weather late in March. “This never happens that we get to start baseball at this time of the year, because there’s snow all over the field still and we’re in the armory trying to practice.”
“It’s wonderful out here. Honestly, we’re probably going to get to play our first game when we’re supposed to, and that never happens,” Risovi noted. “So, this is exciting.”
Players encouraged each other – and joked around sometimes – while they waited in the dugout for their turn at bat. Team members came from two school districts, Rugby and TGU, to form the team.
Risovi took to the pitcher’s mound for the practice session. Batters hit grounders, then line drives, then fly balls deep into the outfield.
Risovi said this year’s team has lots of potential.
“You’ve always got to start out with your seniors,” Risovi said of the team roster.
“We’ve got three seniors this year. Then, we’ve got a lot of experience with our younger players, our eighth grade through sophomores. They were that Babe Ruth team that got to go to state last year. So, they’re experienced kids.”
“And then, we have the junior class, Brady Schook and Gavin Schepp are the only juniors this year that are going to be able to play,” he said, adding, “They’re a couple of kids who love to play baseball too, but unfortunately, because of their age, they haven’t gotten to play in a couple of years because the season was canceled last year and they were too old to play Babe Ruth. So, they’re looking forward to playing again.”
Looking ahead to the season, Risovi said, “We’re playing a really good non-regional schedule. We’re going to play some of the best teams in the state. We’re going to play Velva, New Rockford, Beulah, Minot Ryan, Renville County, so we have a good schedule lined up. And in the region, we have North Star, Northern Lights at Rolette; Harvey’s really good.”
“It’s a really even matchup and there’s going to be some good baseball,” Risovi added.
The Panthers play their first game April 9 against Minot Bishop Ryan/South Prairie at Corbett Field in Minot.
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