Captain consistent: Steady Kelly has been the Roughriders’ top pitcher, shortstopIf Dickinson Roughriders coach Andy Emard could clone Sean Kelly, he would. That way, Emard wouldn’t have to decide where to put Kelly on the field.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
If Dickinson Roughriders coach Andy Emard could clone Sean Kelly, he would.
That way, Emard wouldn’t have to decide where to put Kelly on the field.
The 6-foot, 200-pound pitcher and shortstop has developed a reputation over the past two seasons as the Roughriders most consistent player. This season, he rose into the role of pitching staff ace.
“He’s our best pitcher, but at the same time when we put him on the mound, then we lose our best fielder as well,” Emard said. “It’s kind of a Catch-22.”
Kelly doesn’t only provide the Roughriders with a steady presence, he’s the team’s most experienced player on a Dickinson team that opens the Central Plains Regional Tournament against Carroll County, Iowa, at approximately 8 p.m. today at Southside Municipal Ballpark.
“He’s the most consistent player on the team right now. I’d say he’s our ace on the mound,” Dickinson second baseman and pitcher Aaron Berg said. “If I had to guess who would pitch the first game at regionals, it’s him. But it hurts to not have him (at shortstop).”
Kelly knows what the Central Plains Regional Tournament is all about, too. He is the only player on this year’s team who has played in two regional tournaments.
Kelly was added to the Roughrider teams who reached the 2008 and 2009 regional tournaments. He didn’t see much playing time either season, but said the experience of playing on those teams stuck with him.
“Just being on those teams and watching the talent that was on them and the hard work they put in to win back-to-back state championships, it lit a fire under me to work hard and get better and be the best baseball player I can possibly be,” Kelly said.
This season, Kelly has a 4-3 record on the mound and dropped his earned-run-average 5.10 thanks to a shutout victory over Jamestown in last week’s state tournament opener.
When he’s at shortstop — the position Kelly believes is his strongest — Dickinson’s fielding errors seem to drop drastically.
“At short, he’s going to be up against teams that have more athleticism, but I’ll take him at short,” Emard said. “He makes the play and does what he has to do out there.”
Kelly hasn’t been as dependable at the plate, hitting .283 out of the bottom third of the order. However, Emard said Kelly’s baseball IQ helps him in spot-hitting situations.
“He’s no slouch at the plate. He’ll barrel up,” Kelly said. “He’s not a guy who is going to drive the ball out of the park, but he puts himself in good position, and like I said, he’s really a student of the game.”
He’s also a top-notch student in the classroom.
Kelly graduated third in his class from Dickinson Trinity High School in May. He is one of four Roughriders who graduated from high school but can return to the team next season since their birthdays fall under Legion baseball’s 19-and-under rule.
Because Dickinson hosts next year’s Central Plains Regional tournament as well, Kelly could become the first Roughrider to play in four different regional tournaments.
Despite the Roughriders’ 12-23 record, Kelly said his team won’t be swayed by their underdog status in a tournament filled with state champions and runners-up.
“In this regional tournament, we’ve got absolutely nothing to lose,” Kelly said. “We’re just the host team. We’re supposed to be everybody’s doormat. So, we’ll come in and we’ll play our hardest, go all out and leave it all on the field.”