Young players important for RoughridersLuke Herauf never saw the field for the Dickinson High varsity baseball team in the spring.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Luke Herauf never saw the field for the Dickinson High varsity baseball team in the spring.
This summer, the third baseman and pitcher who is about to enter his sophomore season has been one of many pleasant young surprises for the Dickinson Roughriders American Legion baseball team that hosts the Central Plains Regional Tournament beginning Thursday
“That’s kind of been our makeup this season,” Dickinson head coach Cory Hansen said. “We’re going by the song, ‘We Are Young.’”
Though the young Roughriders have had their share of bright moments, they haven’t exactly set the world on fire. The host team enters a tournament populated by five state champions and two state runners-up with a 15-27 record.
Nevertheless, there has been a bit of a youth movement on Dickinson’s biggest diamond this summer and the team has seen some of their success because of it.
Dylan Skabo, a regular starter in the high school season, has taken over a major role this summer as the Roughriders’ starting shortstop and leadoff batter. He has a .305 batting average. He’ll only be a junior this fall.
Mark Erickson, a backup catcher as a freshman last spring, will likely start Thursday when Dickinson plays Omaha (Neb.) Pi Midwest in the opening round.
Herauf, who has two home runs and 25 RBIs this season, will be at third base with the possibility of a relief pitching appearance.
“They are in some key spots. Those guys had to mature early and they’ve been able to do that,” Hansen said. “I’ve asked a lot of them, just so we could stay in ball games and we have.”
Other youngsters who could see the field include first baseman Cole Anderson and left-handed pitcher Mickey Folske.
“The young guys have been playing a huge role,” Skabo said. “I don’t think we expected this many young guys to be up.”
Herauf said the adjustment to the top Legion level in North Dakota was difficult at first. Now he’s happy he earned the chance to play at this level.
“It took some time to get used to right away, from freshmen level coming up to Legion A,” Herauf said. “The pitchers are harder and pitch smarter. … I’m pretty glad that I got to come up this year. That’ll just give me more experience and I’ll be ready for next year’s season.”
Can out-of-state success carry over for Riders?
Dickinson won more of its games against out-of-state opponents than against teams from North Dakota this summer.
The Roughriders went 8-7 against competition from Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Saskatchewan. By comparison, they were 7-20 against in-state teams and have nine one-run losses.
Hansen said he knows the Roughriders are a longshot at the tournament, but hopes the team’s luck against the star-studded teams at the Central Plains Regional carries over from the success it had against other talented out-of-state teams.
It’ll be tough though.
Dickinson’s opening-night opponent, Omaha Pi Midwest, has 10 players who have signed National Letters of Intent to play college baseball — seven of them for NCAA Division I schools.
“We’ve been right there,” Hansen said. “We’ve had some tough breaks. We beat quality teams too. With our youth we probably shouldn’t. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just not showing up in the win column, but we’re real close.”