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Press Photo by Meaghan MacDonald Members of the Dickinson Volunteers, in black jerseys, and Charleston, Mo., in green, baseball teams wait in line for food during a picnic on Wednesday at Astoria Field at Southside Municipal Ballpark.

Gaining new experience: Dickinson plays host for the Midwest Plains Regional baseball tourney

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Fargo won the North Dakota Senior Babe Ruth state championship and a spot in the Midwest Plains Regional Tournament.

However, North Dakota will be represented twice this week as Dickinson hosts the tournament, which starts today at noon at Astoria Field at Southside Municipal Ballpark. The Volunteers have an automatic bid into the tournament because they are the host.

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While the Volunteers are fairly young — most players are between 15 and 16 years old — head coach Jason Watson is hoping the overall takeaway point from this weekend is gaining experience against more experienced teams. Most Senior Babe Ruth teams are made up of 16- to 18-year-olds.

“I believe all my guys are 15 to 16 years old, so playing against some teams that are going to be older is good experience for them,” said Watson, who is also the head coach for Dickinson State.

“As far as pitching, that’s probably going to be the biggest difference. They’re going to see guys that can bring it and so, experience-wise, it’s going to be great.”

This is Watson’s first year coaching the Volunteers instead of working with his usual college summer league teams. The experience for him so far as been different, but the players have been enthusiastic and he said he has been having fun.

“Obviously the college kids have more talent. They’re older, they’ve been in pressure situations,” Watson said. “But these guys, they love coming to the park. It’s summertime and they get to come to the ballpark and play ball. ... Hopefully when the seasons done, they’ve gotten better at the game of baseball and continue to get better over the years.”

The Midwest Plains Region spans Colorado, North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.

The team from Holyoke, Colo., traveled nine-and-a-half hours to Dickinson and split the trip evenly over two days. With the traveling out of the way, Holyoke can focus on its game. They play Oskaloosa, Iowa, in the opener at noon today.

“We’re excited for the competition,” Holyoke head coach Trent Ham said. “It’s a great opportunity to be here and its a long trip. We came all this way, we’re going to play our hardest and just have fun. That’s what we’ve been doing all year.”

Charleston, Mo., traveled more than 20 hours to get to Dickinson by Wednesday, but they aren’t strangers to North Dakota.

Head coach Michael Minner coach a team in the regionals eight years ago when it was held in Williston and had a memorable experience.

“We’ve been (to regionals) before and it’s a neat experience for our kids and really excited to get back and see those guys that we haven’t seen in forever,” Minner said. “Probably the most fun we had in a tournament was in Williston, and it was a great experience for our kids and for us.”

Last year’s regional was held in Iowa and Charleston won. It eventually came in fifth place in the Senior Babe Ruth World Series.

Minner said many players from last year’s team returned and he hopes they can play good baseball and see what happens.

On all three nights of pool play, Dickinson plays the nightcap. The Volunteers take on Eden Prairie (Minn.) Black at 7:45 p.m. today.

While most of the team has played in some form of a regional, second baseman Benson Kramer admitted he hasn’t yet and is excited for the chance to compete in something new.

“It’s really cool. I’ve never been to a regional before so it’s kind of a first experience for me,” he said. “For (my teammates), they’re younger than me, so they’ve won some state tournaments when they were younger and have been to these before.”

Although the Volunteers are young and will be up against new and unfamiliar talent, knowing they have a spot in the tournament is relief enough to just take the field and focus solely on Eden Prairie.

“It’s just not really any pressure on us,” said Kramer, adding the Volunteers just want to play ball and have fun.

“We have nothing to lose.”

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