Eye on southwest ND sports

Surprise, surprise, another parochial school won the state Class B girls basketball championship. Minot Ryan won the last three championships with last year being a win over Shiloh.

Sheldon Christenson
Sheldon Christenson


Trinity finished in seventh place this year. When is the state going to realize that there needs to be three classes in basketball. Smaller public schools cannot compete with parochial schools on a year to year basis. Large schools in Class A, larger Class B schools, which includes parochial schools, in Class B and the remainder in Class C. Shiloh has not been around that long but this was their fifth appearance in the girls Class B tournament. South Dakota has no problem with three divisions.

LOOKING BACK: Struggling can often lead to success in athletics. (Excerpts taken from the June 1, 2011 Dickinson Press, Dustin Monke)

“You’ve always got to have failure before you have success,” Hettinger head baseball coach Joe Perkins said. “You learn from it that way. You lose enough, you get sick of it.” It didn’t take Perkins’ Black Devils long to get tired of losing. In Hettinger’s third year of having a high school baseball program, and only its second season sanctioned by a North Dakota High School Activities Association, the team is in its first Class B state tournament, according to the article.

The article also said “A few years ago, the only June baseball boys from Hettinger played was the American Legion variety. After all, no one expected winning to come this quickly. Not the players, and especially not Perkins. The first season, the Black Devils played a club schedule and traveled hundreds of miles for nearly every game. “Not a lot of people wanted to come play us, so we went up there and played them,” Perkins said. Last season, the Black Devils finished 5-15.

This spring, they have a 10-7 overall record but were 7-1 in region games and 3-0 in the region tournament. All six of their losses came with junior varsity players on the field and many of their starters in the dugout, according to the article.

The article also said that Perkins remembers harping on his team last season, trying to get his points across and hoping to make players understand that, yes, there’s a method to his madness. There hasn’t been much of that this season, he said. “When I first started, I used to chew a lot. I was kind of hard on these guys,” Perkins said. “I don’t think once last week in regionals, even when we were down a little bit, I didn’t say anything. They proved to me that they can get the job done without me saying anything. That’s huge.”

It doesn’t hurt to have some boys who can play the game, either. Senior leadoff hitter and shortstop Nate Pierce is batting .526 and leads the team in RBI, runs and stolen bases. He plans to play for the University of Mary next season. Pitchers Ben Laufer, Chad Mosbrucker and Gavin Schweitzer are a combined 10-1 this season, throwing in all of the team’s region games.

Senior Drew Kugel bats .405 and is second on the team in RBIs. Junior second baseman McCahen Schweitzer bats .428 with one error in the field. Mosbrucker and Laufer, both juniors, can also hit. They have batting averages of .468 and .371, respectively, and Laufer has the team’s only home run.

The Black Devils’ players come from Hettinger, Scranton, Mott-Regent and Lemmon, S.D.

Scranton brings a busload of players, driven by assistant coach Jeremy Dietchman. Two players from Mott drive about 45 minutes one-way. Gavin Schweitzer, a senior all-region selection, commutes from Lemmon. When the team steps on the baseball field, however, they leave their football and basketball rivalries at the gate, as stated in the article.

“It’s been a good time,” said Mosbrucker, a junior from Mott in his first year with the team. “We’re big rivals during basketball and football, but when we get down here, we all get along. Everything has been a blast so far. I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

The article also stated that the area is getting behind the team, too. In Hettinger, just as they do for the football, basketball or wrestling teams, business have painted signs on windows supporting the team. The city even held a send-off rally for the Black Devils on Wednesday afternoon. Mirror Lake Park has long been considered one of the nicest baseball fields in southwest North Dakota. The lake, surrounded by buttes, and a row of the Evergreen trees just beyond the outfield fence make for a beautiful ballpark setting. The grain elevators to the north of the field give it a little extra small-town feel.

Yet today, many teams — especially those in the class above them — would likely scoff at the Black Devils’ stomping grounds. The stands are well maintained, but older. There’s no quick-drying Agrilime infield dirt, just a plain-old, hard gravel-like surface that collects large puddles near first and second base. Perkins said a new field tarp, donated by the Hettinger American Legion post, will soon make that nuisance irrelevant. The grass infield is lush but only two years old, and the outfield grass is about half a foot too high, according to the written piece.

The article also referenced Mosbrucker saying he and McCahen Schweitzer hope to convince more players who play only Legion baseball to ride with them to Hettinger next spring. “We’re going to try and get some more people coming down here next year,” Mosbrucker said. “Heck, we’re going to state. Maybe we can go to state again next year.” Pierce said he has noticed an upswing in the participation of little League-age players this spring, too. If those players continue playing, he believes the program will continue to build into something great. “If it keeps building, it’s going to be kind of a powerhouse,” Pierce said. “It keeps getting bigger and bigger. All the little kids in all the towns are pretty psyched about the team. “We’ve got everyone excited about baseball again.”

Sports schedule for the coming week is as follows:

– 17-19 Mar, Boys State B Basketball tourney at Minot