Midkota makes it happen again
It takes a handful of towns, but Midkota’s baseball team always seems to field a quality club.
Rick Christianson has been filling out the lineup card for nearly a quarter century for the Mustangs and continues to go strong, despite some physical limitations.
The Mustangs are 12-4 this season and take the top seed into the Region 3 tournament, which begins Monday in Carrington.
“We’ve had a lot of good kids through the years, who like to play baseball and work hard at,” Christianson said. “I feel fortunate to have gotten to work with a lot of really good kids. That always makes it easy as a coach when you know your players care and want to do well.”
This year’s team features 12 players from Griggs County Central, four from Midkota and two from Barnes County North. They’ve come together for a 10-0 region record and hope to put together a run that ends at the state tournament in Jamestown at the end of May.
“The kids deserve the credit. They’ve been doing what I’ve asked them to do,” Christianson said. “Hopefully we can keep doing that next week.”
After a few challenging seasons, the Mustangs were primed for a good run in 2014. The roster remains relatively young, with just one senior, so they appear set for another sustained stretch of success.
“The very first day I told them that they had potential to play good baseball and that should be a goal,” Christianson said of getting to state. “Our region has some very good teams, so by no means is it going to be easy for us. No matter what happens next week it’s been a good season. These kids, I’m really proud of them. They’ve played some very good baseball already.”
The Mustangs boast a whopping .411 team batting average.
Brett Selvesen leads the way with a sky-high .604 batting average. He’s also clubbed 10 extra base hits, including two home runs.
Slugging senior Dakota Hoyt is right behind. Hoyt has 32 runs batted in through only 16 games. That’s after posting 30 RBI in just 13 games last season. He’s also belted four home runs.
Sophomore Jayden Grover is hitting over .440 and has 24 RBI. Leadoff man Riley Nelson is flirting with .500 at .478 and has 14 stolen bases to boot. Tyler Gravseth (.475) and Hunter Engel (.400) are also over .400 or better.
Ben Halverson (.325, 15 RBI), Carter Aarestad (.333) and Clay Frappier (.259) make for a deep lineup.
“We’ve hit the ball well. We have a couple of kids that have done a lot of damage, obviously. Dakota’s been pretty tough now for a few years, but we’ve gotten nice contributions from a lot of different kids,” Christianson said. “We don’t feel like just one or two guys have to drive in runs or anything like that. We have pretty good balance in our lineup.”
Same is true on the mound where Grover is unbeaten at 5-0 with a 1.75 earned run average. Nelson owns a 4-1 record and Gravseth is 3-1.
Christianson said they’d like to see improvement running the bases, but other than that he has few complaints.
“I could go on and on about the kids. They’re a really good group. They work hard. They want to do well. It’s just a fun team and they’ve played awfully well,” he said.
Like most coaches, Christianson has always been active throwing batting practice, hitting ground balls and fly balls, but he’s had to ease off the gas this season. Arm and shoulder pain have plagued him and he’ll have hip replacement surgery in June. He’ll also retire as a full-time teacher at Midkota, but still plans to coach the baseball team in the spring time, teach driver’s ed. and substitute teach as much as possible.
“I’ve been breaking down a little physically and I told the kids, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to do as much as I’d like to.’ The kids, though, they just helped me along when I needed it and we’ve made it work,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to do a little more next year.”
The Mustangs figure to be right in the hunt again next spring, but hope to make 2014 last a little longer.
“I told the boys (Thursday) after we won, ‘Congratulations, you went 10-0 in the region. That was really good, but that’s finished. Now, everybody is 0-0.’” Christianson said. “We have a tough tournament coming up against some good teams. The good thing is our kids are excited about it and it should be a fun couple of days and we’re excited to see how it turns out.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at email@example.com