Role players getting it done for RidersThey have their flashes of brilliance and even sometimes, they’re the ones making the big plays.
By: Chris Aarhus, The Dickinson Press
They have their flashes of brilliance and even sometimes, they’re the ones making the big plays.
The role players on the Dickinson Roughriders often take a backseat to the popularity of big hitters like Cole Frenzel, Ben Herauf, Tyler Steffan and Stephen Laylock.
Dickinson coach Andy Emard said that doesn’t make them less important.
“Our expectations were high for (our role players),” Emard said. “We’ve gotten out of them what we thought and at times, they’ve exceeded expectations.”
They sit at the bottom of the lineup for the most part. Tommy Peters, Caleb Burgard, Kyle Breen, Mason Schiff, Eric Seiler and Connor McNeilly make up Dickinson’s role players, and they’ve surprised many at times with their ability to hit the ball and get on base.
“We have two different lineups,” Emard said. “The top half: We let them hit and work it out. The bottom half: We do a lot of situational stuff.”
Eric Seiler has spent the latter part of the season as the Riders’ leadoff hitter. Though he finished the tournament 4-for-21 while battling a cold all weekend, he proved to be a tough out for many teams, drawing four walks and getting plunked three times.
“I like to see a few pitches and let everyone know what the pitcher’s got,” Seiler said.
He also had a solo home run against Fargo in the state-title game.
“He’s got some pop in his bat and he’s done real well against good pitching,” Emard said. “He sets the table for the rest of them.”
On the mound, Seiler is the team’s No. 2 behind Laylock. Even with the cold, he pitched six innings against Mandan on Friday, allowing just a solo home run. Mandan got to him in the seventh, but Dickinson had a comfortable lead by then, going on to win 18-6.
“That was a real gutsy performance,” Emard said.
Seiler is one of a few leadoff options that Dickinson has in its arsenal. At the bottom of the order is shortstop Kyle Breen, a patient hitter who often invokes big innings with a leadoff walk.
“If Sei and I get on (to start an inning), we’re bound to score some runs,” Breen said. “With Laylock and what’s next … they’re just so dangerous.”
Caleb Burgard, who started the season at leadoff, often finds himself in the No. 8 position ahead of Breen. Emard said both players give the Riders plenty of situational options.
“That gives us a lot more opportunities for running hit-and-runs, bunts … stuff like that,” Emard said.
Because of certain pitching situations, Burgard and Peters often find themselves platooning at one spot. Peters, who’s more of a power hitter, finished the state tournament 8-for-14. He cracked a home run against Wahpeton and had a two-RBI single in the first inning against Minot, helping the Riders take an early 3-0 lead.
“Tommy’s been a real good bat for us,” Breen said. “A lot of teams look past Tommy because of Ben and the guys, but Tommy has just as much power.”
Connor McNeilly, who catches when Michael Steve pitches, joins Mason Schiff as two role players who fit into a team concept that has worked well so far.
“We do the job and get on base,” Seiler said. “We know the guys with the big sticks are going to come up big for us and score some runs.”