Hang loose: Roughriders looking to find themselves as state Legion tourney begins
The Dickinson Roughriders need to find themselves. Winning one of their last six games to end the regular season? That's not the Roughriders. Playing uninspired and mistake-filled baseball? That's not the foundation these Roughriders were built o...
The Dickinson Roughriders need to find themselves.
Winning one of their last six games to end the regular season? That's not the Roughriders. Playing uninspired and mistake-filled baseball? That's not the foundation these Roughriders were built on.
"This team isn't used to failure really, at any level they've ever played," Roughriders head coach Stephen Greenwood said. "I told them, 'Let's fight together, let's stay together, and we'll be just fine.' It's OK to have adversity. It just builds character."
As they turn their focus to the North Dakota State American Legion Baseball Tournament in Williston - where they begin play at noon Mountain Time on Wednesday against Minot - time is not on their side. They have to bust out of this slump, and quickly.
"We know what's at stake and we know what you need to do at state to be successful," outfielder Shawn Steffan said. "And we know that these last few weeks isn't us. We know what we're capable of, and we just have to go prove it to everybody else."
The first step in doing so, Greenwood said, is playing loose.
"What we have to do is get back to being a little more loose and not so tight from the get-go," Greenwood said. "This team always performs better when we play loose. We need to play the game like we know we can, and we should be able to do something special.
"I'm guilty of it too. When things aren't going good, you tend to overthink things a little bit, and every situation is more and more complicated than it has to be. It seems that when the smallest of things would go wrong, it would be alarming. ... I know it's in us. We just have to relax."
It sounds simple enough, but it has been a tough task in recent weeks. Dickinson (22-14) was set up nicely for the No. 2 seed in this week's tournament, but after dropping a doubleheader to Fargo Post 2 and splitting with Grand Forks last week, the Roughriders dropped to the third seed.
"Our mentality is to play loose and have some fun, but the last few weeks, we've been in the running for first or second place, and we were crunching ourselves a little bit," shortstop Lucas Jones said. "We didn't play as well as we should have. That's going to be pushing us to come back and be ourselves."
Steffan recalled Dickinson's spring season - racking up a school-record 32 victories on its way to state title game appearance.
"That's all we did. We'd play loose, go out and have fun, and then good things happen," he said. "What's happened this summer is we've been thinking too much, trying too hard to focus on littler things and not thinking of the big picture."
There is optimism among the group, however.
The team's oldest players have been together playing this sport - and most other sports, really - for most of their lives. If anything, that continuity should take them a long way.
"We know this whole team will pick us up," Jones said. "We trust everyone on this team."
Steffan added: "We need to go out and do what we know, and that will lead us to some victories."