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Pitching key for Dickinson High

Pete Dobitz knows not everyone agrees with his pitching philosophy at tournament time. That's still not going to stop the Dickinson High baseball coach from throwing his aces early in this weekend's West Region Tournament. "If you're going to try...

Pete Dobitz knows not everyone agrees with his pitching philosophy at tournament time.

That's still not going to stop the Dickinson High baseball coach from throwing his aces early in this weekend's West Region Tournament.

"If you're going to try and save somebody, he may never pitch," Dobitz said.

With that in mind, the Midgets are rolling out senior right-hander Grant Kovacs at 11 a.m. today in their West Region Tournament opener against Jamestown at Goldmann Field in Beulah.

Dobitz, in all likelihood, will send right-handed sophomore fastballer Stephen Laylock to the mound on Friday, regardless if Dickinson wins or loses its first game.

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The Midgets, who have the top seed in this weekend's tournament, need all their pitchers to be on the money in order to keep an upper hand in the small ballpark.

"We're going to have to pitch the ball," Dobitz said. "In the small park we're going to be in, I think we're going to need to throw strikes and not put people on."

Pitching hasn't been much of a problem for Dickinson this season.

Kovacs is 6-0 with a 0.42 earned-run average - he's allowed just two earned runs against 134 batters - and has picked up one save while striking out 28.

Laylock, who had a breakout freshman season, has been inconsistent as a sophomore.

He started four games but has only one decision, a 1-0 victory over St. Mary's in early April. While his ERA is 2.95, Laylock has fanned 22.

Behind Kovacs and Laylock is a stable of trusty arms. Ten different players started games for Dickinson this year while 17 saw time on the mound.

Michael Steve could be the one to get the nod if the Midgets reach the championship game.

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The junior has been Dickinson's savior on the mound this season.

Steve has a school-record six saves to go along with a 2-1 record and a 2.80 ERA. He's also struck out 23 in 11 appearances and two starts.

While Steve didn't expect to be the team's closer at the beginning of the season, he finds himself well suited for the role.

"When you come in to close, you only get to pitch one inning, maybe two, so you can just throw it all out there," Steve said.

Other Midgets who could see time on the mound are seniors Jackson Wandler, Andy Tomanek and Tyler Steffan. Tomanek and Steffan are both 2-0 while Wandler is 2-1 with 23 strikeouts.

Wandler and Tomanek earned their victories in conference games while Steffan picked up his decisions in the nonconference half of the team's doubleheaders.

While Kovacs concurs with Dobitz that pitching is the key to Dickinson's success, he believes teams will find it difficult to contain the Midgets if they play clean defense.

"We've just got to be mentally tough up there," Kovacs said. "There's some innings we kind of get into a funk and we give up a few runs here and there. If we can give up that stuff, I think we'll be fine."

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With the short porch to work with at Goldmann Park, the Midgets pitchers should also get a helping hand at the plate.

Dickinson's key batters are hitting a combined .354. Ben Herauf has hit four home runs and driven in 29 runs while Cole Frenzel has three homers and 28 RBI.

The Midgets know they'll need to play well-rounded games in order to repeat as West Region champions and set up a chance for the team to defend their Class A state championship.

"Our pitching has to continue to do what they're capable of and we have to field the ball like we can and continue hitting like we are now," Herauf said.

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