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Young Babe Ruth Panthers team steps up to the plate

By Sue Sitter - | Jun 12, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Babe Ruth League players Hudson Hjelden, left, and John Lashman practice at first base on Rugby High School’s Northern Lights Field.

Rugby’s Babe Ruth Panthers team will have some new faces in this year’s lineup, but they’re not new to Coach Travis Risovi.

Risovi, who coaches Rugby High School Panthers baseball, has seen many of the 13 to 15-year-old players on the high school’s JV team. This year, he’s taken on extra coaching duties for the Rugby Recreation Babe Ruth program.

Many of the young players haven’t had much of a chance to play on the varsity squad alongside the three seniors, two juniors and sophomores with years of experience for Rugby High, Risovi said.

“There’s a really good class above them, last year’s class, that played a whole lot of baseball,” Risovi said as the team practiced in the evening heat at Northern Lights Field June 3. “These guys didn’t get a whole lot last year because not a lot of teams around here have a JV team. So these guys would get two or three innings a game, maybe. Now, this year, they’ll get their turn to play.”

One player, Macen Heisler, will return from last year’s team, a group that earned a berth in the state Babe Ruth playoffs.

“He’s actually still in the age of Babe Ruth,” Risovi said of Heisler. “He’s the only one of the group (from last year) who’s still in that age. He’s young for his grade. His birthday’s in June, so he gets one extra year of Babe Ruth.”

Risovi said another slot in the state playoffs “is always the goal. “Honestly, because all these kids will be back next year – there’s only a few that will get too old after this year – it’s all about learning this year.”

This year’s Babe Ruth team includes one co-op player from Towner, Nash Wollenzien. The rest of the team comes from the Rugby area.

Risovi said the team’s main goal is to get more time at the plate and out in the field.

“There’s seven-inning games and that’s what it’s all about – these guys getting experience and playing,” Risovi said. “Whatever happens, happens but we just want to get better each day and play some baseball,” he added with a smile.

Rugby’s Babe Ruth Panthers started their season with games against New Rockford-Sheyenne, Rolla and Turtle Mountain. Results from those games will appear in next week’s Tribune.

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