Thursday’s leadoff hitter for the Senior Babe Ruth Jamestown Eagles was in a tractor Friday afternoon, rolling a field of planted soybeans near Woodworth and reflecting on the first live sports event hosted in Jamestown in more than two months.
The Class A Eagles split a doubleheader hosting the Class AA Dickinson Roughriders at Jack Brown Stadium, with the Roughriders winning 8-2 and Jamestown winning 9-5 in Game 2.
Different in numerous ways in order to protect from the possible spread of COVID-19, the baseball that was played remained largely recognizable to 2020 Jamestown High School graduate, and currently hired farmhand, Chris Erickson.
“Right away it was a little weird, only having one ump and him behind the (pitcher’s mound) calling strikes,” Erickson said. “But it was honestly just fun to be out there playing again.
“Like normal, almost.”
The all-state shortstop for Jamestown High School in 2019 batted 2-for-5 with a pair of singles and an RBI over the two games, capturing a bit of redemption on the mound after twice recording a bases-loaded third out at the plate with flyouts to center. Erickson pitched the day’s final inning of play, using fastballs to strikeout Dickinson’s Jaren Hughelen with the bases full and secure Jamestown’s 9-5 victory.
Hughelen had previously smoked his second extra-base hit of the day -- a two-run double -- in the fifth inning.
“That was in the back of my head, not to leave (the ball) over the center of the plate,” Erickson said. “I didn’t want to show him my curveball because I was hanging that, kinda, and they were hitting it pretty well. So I was just gonna give him fastballs … I pumped up a little on the last one.”
The novel coronavirus deprived Erickson and the JHS class of 2020 a final high school spring sports season. Erickson was one of 18 athletes voted all-state last season by Class A baseball coaches, batting over .390 with 20 RBIs to help the Blue Jays finish above .500 at 13-12 overall.
Erickson stayed hot throughout the 2019 American Legion Baseball season, slashing .397/.500/.474 with four doubles, a triple, 19 runs driven in and 27 runs scored.
In 101 plate appearances last summer for the Eagles, Erickson recorded 16 walks and struck out just four times.
“I don’t like to strike out because you get no chance then,” Erickson said. “I like to be aggressive earlier in the count. If I don’t get my pitch I like right away, then I hope to expand the zone. When I get to two strikes I protect the plate.”
Erickson is one of two current Jamestown Eagles to have been scooped up by the University of Jamestown. Erickson and Isaac Mimong have both committed with Jimmie baseball and head coach Tom Hager.
Mimong batted 1-for-4 with three walks on Thursday following a torrid 2019 for the catcher/outfielder. The recent JHS grad batted .418/.545/.537 with eight doubles and 19 RBIs last summer for the Eagles and head coach Sam Joseph.
“We’re excited to get two quality people who both play for a good Legion baseball program here in Jamestown, and we’re really looking forward to seeing what kind of impact those guys can make on our campus,” Hager said. “They had excellent seasons last year and both bring different things to the table.”
Hager said Erickson has the potential to possibly wind up at either third base or shortstop for the Jimmies in the future. Erickson spent time at third as a sophomore while working back from a torn ACL suffered as a freshman football player that required a pair of surgeries.
Mimong is also a multi-sport talent, having played basketball and earning all-conference honors as a tennis player for JHS.
“Chris has been a very consistent player, a hard-working player … The one thing that’s a constant that you hear in town is how hard that guy works,” Hager said. “And everybody you talk to in town has respect for the type of person Isaac Mimong is and what he brings to a team. We know that he’s the first one to get there and the last one to leave, and that’s going to be a good addition to any team.”
Erickson said UJ checked all the boxes.
“They have a really built program, a lot of tradition,” Erickson said. “Coach Hager made me feel at home. And on my visit, I really liked how they treated me and my family. Everyone welcomed us.”
Erickson explained nothing can replace losing his final baseball season for JHS and head coach Kelley Kessler, but this summer’s Senior Babe Ruth season has so far helped. North Dakota Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken baseball is providing the state’s American Legion ball players an outlet to try and play safely following the American Legion’s decision to cancel the 2020 season nationwide.
“Obviously we have a lot to work on, but we made a lot of progress after that first game (Thursday),” Erickson said. “We came back strong in the second game. We made a lot of adjustments … our younger guys stepped up and we matured, I thought.”
The only real negative for Erickson during Thursday’s return to sports? A bouncing, between-innings throw to second base from Eagles’ catcher and buddy Tommy Falk.
Falk will be one of four quarterbacks rostered by Minnesota State University Moorhead in the fall. The Eagles host the Class AA Fargo Stars on June 3 at 5:30 p.m.
“Other than taking that ball to the knee from Tommy’s throw down yesterday, we’re good,” Erickson laughed.