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Braun, Larson lead Wolves into Region 3 tourney

The Wolves finished the season on a two-game winning streak.

Jace Larson
The Wolves' Jace Larson swings through a pitch during the game against Heart River on April 4, 2022.
Contributed / Rhonda Binder
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STEELE, ND — After going 11-12 overall and losing in the Region 3 championship game in 2021, the Kidder County/Napoleon/Gackle/Streeter baseball team has responded with an 11-5 season. The Wolves went on a five-game winning streak from April 26 to May 7, with the team currently sitting in second in Region 3.

Wolves head coach Ryan Sand said his team has not been thinking about trying to get back to the mountain top and changing the result this season.

“Our mindset has been to come to the field each day ready to play because the boys know that you have to win to get to the championship game,” Sand said. “It is tough to win when you don’t come ready.”

Sand said his team’s ability to have such a big season comes down to their hurlers and the defense behind them. The Wolves have collected a 2.30 team ERA, which Sand credits to the help of pitching coach Damian Kennedy.

“We have Blake Braun, Isaiah Oster, Jace Larson, Colin Zimmerman, and even Simon Hager can get up on the mound and throw strikes for us here and there,” Sand said. “We have a deep pitching rotation that helps out, especially when we have to put three games into a week, three or four games. So, that’s been huge, we’ve had multiple games without an error, so defense has been huge for us.”

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Two of the biggest players who have helped contribute to the Wolves success are a duo of juniors who contribute at the plate and on the mound, Larson and Braun. Larson leads the team with a .500 batting average and a .600 on base percentage, adding one home run and 12 RBIs. Braun is not far behind his teammate, collecting a .424 batting average, a .568 OBP and five RBIs. On the mound, Larson has a 0.70 ERA with 25 strikeouts and only 11 walks. Braun is second on the team in ERA with a 1.10 ERA with 30 strikeouts and nine free passes.

Last year, Larson struggled at the plate hitting below .200 but has completely turned it around this season.

“I think confidence,” Larson said. “I’ve always been overshadowed by some great athletes and when it was my time to step up I just went out with confidence, had fun every time I’m up there. I told myself if they give me a pitch to hit I can drive it and that’s been working great for me so far.”

As far as his preference between pitching and playing first, Larson said he prefers the pressure of being a pitcher.

The team was not impervious to the weather conditions that plagued the rest of the teams in the region at all levels, which Sand said allowed his team to grow a tremendous amount.

“Watching them grow from being stuck in a multi-purpose room, a small gymnasium for 10 weeks,” Sand said. “It’s been amazing to see what they’ve actually accomplished with the terrible spring weather, with the snow storms dumped on there. I had boys asking in the middle of snow storms if they could have keys to get into the cage. They’ve put it on themselves to get better with the weather we’ve been dealt.”

Related Topics: PREP SPORTSBASEBALL
Hello,
My name is Max O'Neill. I am the Sports Lead at The Jamestown Sun. I am a native New Yorker, who graduated from Ithaca College in 2020 with a degree in Television-Radio.
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