Class B Baseball: Heart River Cougars anticipate hot bats
With limited upperclassmen, the Cougars will rely on young players to push team to winning season.
SOUTH HEART, N.D. — If you take away the big names at the top of the lineup, the bulk of the current Heart River baseball roster will experience varsity competition for the first time in 2022.
The Heart River baseball program faces a unique challenge of utilizing young talent in a trial by fire season that will shape the program for years to come. The Cougars will take to the diamond following their ace pitchers and catchers graduating last season.
Heart River has two seniors this year, Tarrence Dillinger and Braden Obrigewitch, both seeking to play pivotal defensive roles. Dillinger and Obrigewitch will also be tasked to step into leadership roles in mentoring the younger players, many of whom are new faces for the veterans.
“My coach told me that there were 20 people when we first started this Heart River baseball program and there is a picture up here and I am the last one left from that picture,” Dillinger said. “As a leader, It is kind of like I am the last of the legacy and I have a big role to pass on what we started.”
Obrigewitch will step into the backstop as starting catcher and while he isn't one of the original members of the inaugural team, he did join the program only a year after its start. He said he recognizes how critical it is to be a leader for his young teammates.
“It is kind of like we are starting over again,” Obrigewitch said. “I was in the same situation my freshman year, having to play with older guys and who really helped us become the team that we were last year and kind of having that breakout season.”
The team also features four juniors, two of which are expected to be stand-outs in the Cougar lineup. Beauden Krueger and Austin Buckman are solid role-players who coaches need only to develop consistency in. Both are capable at the plate and solid defensive side players, but have experienced cold-streaks mirroring the hot.
“Austin Buckman is going to be big for us. He is a utility infielder that can pretty much play anywhere we need him to play,” Head coach Kurt Silbernagel said. “Austin is a junior, but he has been playing like a senior since his freshman year.”
Silbernagel was hot on his enthusiasm for his freshmen class, saying that at seven deep the underclassmen are expected to bring strong hitting to their program.
“Last year we struggled to hit the ball when we need it,” Silbernagel said. “This year our freshman class is a really good group of hitters and we are going to be relying on our freshmen to fill those spots. I am excited about that , especially the size of that freshman class. I am excited for them getting the experience this year for the years to come.”
Some of the names mentioned by Silbernagel from their freshman class, whom he believes will be hot in the batter’s box, are Brayden Kastrow, Luke Obrigewitsch, Mason Kessel and Kaden Zacher.
They also have a good handful of seventh and eighth graders on their roster that Silbernagel challenged to make an impact.
“We open it up to the seventh and eighth graders to keep them involved, because if we don't then they have another two months with nothing to do and we want to keep them involved,” Silbernagel said. “If you can hit, then you are going to have a place on this team.”