DSU seniors gear up for final games
The Dickinson State baseball team is entering the last leg of its season, the NAIA Unaffiliated North Star-Frontier Conference tournament.
After completing the regular season 10-38, the No. 6-seeded Blue Hawks are slated to play No. 2 seed Mayville State at 2:30 p.m. today at Valley City State. DSU hopes its luck improves and not be sent home early.
Those who have their fingers crossed even tighter are the five seniors — Joe Binstock, Jake Coyle, Chris Mjelstad, Ian Anderson and Brock Overbo — who want to prolong their collegiate careers for as long as they can.
“It hit me (Tuesday) night, could be our last week of baseball and it’s just winding down,” Mjelstad said. “No more competitive baseball in my life after this. It sucks.”
The time and experiences at DSU vary between each player, but all have unanimously found their time on the team worthwhile and special.
For Anderson, a Kenmare native, being at DSU has given him a chance to get out his comfort zone and gain more experiences than he could have gotten at home.
“It’s been a lot of fun. Grew up in small town North Dakota, I’ve seen a lot of different things here that you don’t see up in the middle of nowhere,” Anderson said, who ranks No. 37 in the NAIA with five saves. “I’ve been a part of a lot of great teams, a lot of great guys have come through here. I’ve seen them all for the last five years obviously and it’s been special.”
While Anderson has spent the past five years as a Blue Hawk and seen players come and go, both Mjelstad and Binstock came into the program quite familiar with each other.
Mjelstad and Binstock both hail from Billings, Mont., and attended Dawson County College (Mont.) before coming to DSU in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The two have been playing baseball with each other since they were nine years old and Binstock said it was nice having a close friend with him all throughout college.
“He’s like a brother, a brother I’ve played with since I was nine. A very small brother,” Mjelstad joked about the 5-foot-3 Binstock. “It’s just nice having him around since I was nine years old. All throughout high school we hung out, all through college we hung out, It’s been awesome.”
The team finished their season last Saturday with a doubleheader against University of Jamestown and split the series 2-8, 3-0 and ended the season with the victory.
The overall season wasn’t what the Blue Hawks imagined and head coach Jason Watson has been trying to make practices more lighthearted to keep everyone involved and motivated for the playoffs.
“We kind of had more of an upbeat practice as far as the music and trying to allow them to stay relaxed but also be focused,” Watson said. “That’s what it all comes down to play this game you have to be relaxed but also focused.”
The effects of the more enjoyable practices have been noticeable by the players who feel less stressed compared to the beginning of the season.
“Since the season ended it’s gone a lot more fluent, it’s more fun, more relaxing,” Binstock said. “I think for all of us, it’s not as much pressure. At the beginning of the year we pressured everything into doing this right, doing that right. Now we’re just having fun.”
Watson said the team has been working on a number of things this week to fix before game time. On the pitching side it’s keeping the ball down and on the batting side, to be more aggressive and get runs in.
But a universal aspect of the game which needed to be worked on was the team’s overall mental toughness and reducing errors.
The Blue Hawks committed 103 errors on the season and ranked No. 18 in the NAIA with errors per game (2.146).
“We’ve had quite a few errors defensively and they were more mental errors than they were physical errors,” Watson said. “Just always (be) focused. Expect that ball to come to you every pitch, knowing what you’re going to do with it.”
As of today, the regular season is a thing of the past, the slate is clean and all teams start out on the same level. It all comes down to which team brings their game to determine who will be moving forward and see another day in the winner’s game.
“It’s baseball, anything can happen and anyone can beat anyone,” Anderson said. “We’re all 0-0 and basically we all have to come out and play together and play a complete game from start to finish all nine innings every day.”