Nelson County comes on strong at right time
It took Nelson County a little while to crank it up this summer, but it came on at the right time.
After opening the season 2-7, Nelson County is 19-5 in its last 24 games heading into the Class B state tournament, beginning today in Langdon, N.D.
“We started out a little slow, and I don’t think that was unexpected,” the former multi-sport standout at Dakota Prairie said. “We have a lot of young guys, and getting everybody on the same page and start gelling was going to take some time.“There was no question that the talent was there.”
There certainly was plenty for Nelson County to build around.
Just as a refresher, the Nelson County roster incorporates players from Dakota Prairie, Griggs County Central, Lakota and Midkota — all of which have strong baseball backgrounds.
“A lot of our guys have had success in Babe Ruth, and Midkota had a really good high school season, so we knew once we got everything together, we had the opportunity to have a good team,” Luehring said. “I had high expectations for them, and they’ve done a good job picking it up over the last few weeks.”
Nelson County is making its first appearance in the state tournament. It will play Thompson in the third game today at about 4 p.m.
If Thompson, or anybody else is to beat Nelson County, it will have to control the powerful middle of the order of Jayden Grover, Dakota Hoyt and Jonathan Lund.
Grover and Hoyt starred for Midkota during the high school campaign, while Lund is a Dakota Prairie product.
Grover is hitting a robust .412 with four home runs and 31 RBI. The hard-throwing right-hander is also 5-2 with a 4.50 earned run average on the mound.
Hoyt, who will play baseball at Lake Region State in Devils Lake next spring, owns a .359 average with a homer and 30 RBI, while Miller is at .359, including two long balls, 12 doubles and 32 RBI.
“Our 3-4-5 hitters have been the strength of our team. They’re tough to pitch around,” Luehring said. “All three of them can hit it out of the ballpark.”
The top of the lineup is no cakewalk, either. Cooperstown’s Hunter Engel carries a sparkling .426 average and Riley Nelson is hitting .337. Nelson’s been even better on the mound, going 4-1 with a 1.26 ERA.
“I have four or five arms that I can go to that I feel like are going to give us a good chance to win,” said Luehring, who is from Tolna, but teaches physical education at Dakota Prairie School in McVille.
Based on the youth of the team — every player will return next summer — it could surmised that this year’s club was a bit ahead of schedule, but clearly they have arrived and are poised to make a run.
“I’m excited to see how they react because I feel like we’ve improved and we’re playing pretty well right now,” Luehring said. “It’s a good group of kids. They’re fun to be around and I feel like their best baseball is still ahead of them.”
1. Hunter Engel, CF, .426 avg.; 2. Riley Nelson, SS/P, .337 avg., 4-1, 1.26 ERA; Jayden Grover, 3B/P, .412 avg., 4 HR, 31 RBI, 5-2, 4.50 ERA; Dakota Hoyt, 1B, .359 avg., 1 HR, 30 RBI; Jonathan Lund, 2B/SS/3B, .344 avg., 2 HR, 12 2B, 32 RBI; Tyler Gravseth, 2B, .265, 4-2, 3.79 ERA; Matt Miller, C, .264 avg.; Devin Fitcher, RF, .266, 1 HR, 10 RBI or Braydon Sand, RF, .311; Ben Halvorson, LF, .246 avg.
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at email@example.com