We’re less than 48 hours from the start of the Class B Legion Baseball State Tournament. Renville County is heading back there after finishing fourth last year.
We met up with the team after the qualifying game last week and at practice to find out what they’re looking forward to most during the tournament, and what this means for Renville County as a whole.
“Oh, it was surreal!” said Kellan Henry, second baseman.
Henry is talking about the Muskrats’ 8-2 championship win over the Surrey Blue Sox, sending them back to the state tournament. The Muskrats scored a run in every single inning and had zero errors.
We asked a few of them at what point during the game they knew they were heading to Oakes.
“Before we stepped on the field. We were ready to win. We knew if we came out, played smart, played fast, that we would win with ease and repeat back to the state tournament,” said Stetson Helwig, catcher.
“Right from the get-go, you know. We got a few outs. It was kind of an intense first inning, but we broke the ice and scoring first was huge and that’s when I really thought we were going to pedal down and finish it out,” said Brock Depute, pitcher/third baseman.
“I didn’t really feel it until, you know, about sixth inning after we got done batting. I was like, ‘All we’ve got to do is get three more outs and we have it secured,'” said Corbin Hall, first baseman.
Some of the players say there were high expectations to get back to state because they made it last year and getting Renville County the recognition it deserves means a lot to this team.
“Western half of North Dakota sometimes gets overlooked and it’s good to go out there and compete,” said Bart Savelkoul, coach, Renville County Muskrats.
“I’m just hoping we can show some teams what we’re really made of this week,” said Dylan Roach, assistant coach.
“It just feels amazing, you know, just going number one. But, you know, job’s not finished yet. We’ve still got a couple more games left before the end of the season and that’s what we’re striving for, is to hopefully hold up that big state tournament trophy,” Hall said.
Of course, being able to hold the trophy will come with some hard work.
Hitting and defense are some of the obvious things, but coach Savelkoul says they also work on something that isn’t as easy to teach.
“We’ve always been trying to coach here body language and next pitch, next out, next at-bat–wipe off the old one, you know? Best players in the world, they’re 30 percent of the time they’re successful and they’ve just got to remember that at a young age. You’re not always going to be successful out here. Expect failure and be happy when you’re victorious,” said Savelkoul.
“I always am preaching like, ‘Yes, we’re here to win games. But, most importantly we’re here to have fun.’ I don’t want us just being the kind of coaches that are forcing guys to take walks and things like that. I want our guys to get hits. I want them to hit doubles. I want them to hit home runs, and like, what’s more fun than that? Seeing some of these kids hit their first home runs of their lives have been some of the proudest moments of my life,” Roach said.
The team is working towards a win, but that isn’t the only thing on their minds.
“Just having fun out there. You know, just playing relaxed and hopefully just winning that first game is all that matters,” Hall said.
“Just getting there and competing with the best teams in the state again. It’s just a fun environment and being part of it. I mean, that’s the last opportunity for a lot of these kids and put on the best show that we can,” said Savelkoul.
“Just spending the nights in the hotel with the boys and playing fun with these guys. They’re really enjoyable to just be around,” Henry said.
“Just another trip with our team. We’ve been on a couple. We’ve been on a couple this year, and a bunch over the years, and it’s the most fun part, even more fun than the games sometimes,” Depute said.
“I’m looking forward to holding a state championship trophy. Getting to hold the region trophy, that was actually the first time I’ve ever been a part of a team that held a trophy at the end of the year and I held it for about a minute and decided it was too light, I want a bigger one,” Roach said.
Renville County faces Carrington at 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 29.