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Different starting places, similar goals: Miners, Cougars prepare for Region 8 baseball

Spring is in the air. As the temperatures (sort of) begin to rise and the flowers (eventually) start to bloom, little else signifies the season of change like the start of the baseball season. But for many schools across area, the wintery conditi...

Spring is in the air.

As the temperatures (sort of) begin to rise and the flowers (eventually) start to bloom, little else signifies the season of change like the start of the baseball season.

But for many schools across area, the wintery conditions have resulted in little time out on the fields.

"Last year, we were outside day one and I think we had maybe three practices in the gym, that was it. [This year], we haven't been outside yet," Heart River baseball head coach Daren Kurle said with a chuckle. "Tomorrow we're going outside, I don't care. If it's going to be cold, we'll dress warmer, we're going outside."

The Cougars have begun preparation for their second year on the diamond. Following a winless season in their debut campaign, they are looking to be more competitive in hopes that most of the bumps on this new terrain are behind them.

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"Realistically for us, we're going to go out and try to win the game. That's the number one goal, to try and win the game, but the thing that we really want to focus on in order to do that is compete and limit the mental errors.," Kurle said. "Physical errors are going to happen, but now we have a year under our belt, limit those mental errors and lapses that we had last year. We'll try to eliminate those, try to stay in games and compete."

On the opposite end of the spectrum, as Heart River looks to find its footing, the Beulah boys baseball team have played amongst the state's elite

The Miners are aiming for their fifth state tournament appearance in seven years, winning the Class B state title in 2012 and capturing a runner-up spot in 2016. Despite an absence from the tournament last season, the team is not using the past as fuel and is simply looking improve.

"I don't think it's a real motivation," Beulah head coach Bob Koch said. "Most of these kids play multiple sports at Beulah so when high school baseball is over, a lot of them jump into Legion or Babe Ruth and then football. The game is done, they dwell on it for probably a little bit and then it's gone. Their motivation is just getting better. That's one thing we've been real fortunate with is that we've had some kids that are drivers, they are looking to get better. Last year I'm sure was a disappointment to them, but they are looking forward to this year."

Beulah graduated six seniors last season, but return senior pitchers Aaron Vallejo, Mason Dolbec and junior Shane Yeager. The trio lead the team in innings pitched.

Koch also expects senior pitcher/infielder Mikey Morris to contribute on the mound along with his bat. In 18 games last year, Morris led the team hitting .510 with 19 RBIs and 17 runs scored.

Entering his sophomore year, Kory Reub will be another batter Miners opponents will have to contend with. In 31 games last season, the first baseman hit .392 with 21 RBIs and eight doubles.

The Miners do lack power, smashing only four home runs in 2017. The offense intends to use its legs to put runs on the scoreboard.

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"I like to be more of a running team," Koch said. "We don't hit a lot of home runs, we haven't hit a lot of home runs historically, but we have some nice speed and this year I think we have the capability to generate some runs. That's one thing that I really do stress is the running game because not only does it help you score runs, but it also puts pressure on the defense and the more pressure you can put on them, hopefully they can make some mistakes."

Meanwhile, Heart River will field three seniors in Jesse Canode, Andy Hodell and Logan McMahen as the program looks to build on experience.

"Starting the high school team, a few of the kids came into our high school program without playing baseball anywhere from two to five years," Kurle said. "The speed of the game is really what surprised a lot of those kids. The younger kids that actually had the experience, they knew what to expect, but it was just that we were playing kids that were older and had a lot more experience than us."

The left side of the infield will consist of returning junior third baseman Anton Krebs and junior shortstop Cauy Shypkoski. The right side of the infield includes freshmen second baseman Preston Walter while freshmen Tanner Obrigewitch and sophomore Ian Silbernagel will split time at first. According to Kurle, Silbernagel is the team's best option on the mound.

"He's a sophomore and he's a lefty. He threw pretty well for us last year," Kurle said. "He's going to be important for us."

Related Topics: BEULAH MINERSHEART RIVER COUGARS
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