Aug. 4—DICKINSON — It wasn't the ideal way to end the season, exiting the state tournament after three games, but the 18U Dickinson baseball team came away with a string of accolades and achievements that marked the season as a resounding success.
The 2022 season saw the Dickinson Post 3 American Legion Roughriders finish 21-17, capture the Bozeman Bucks AA invitational title and launch a daunting and deep run in Creighton Prep Omaha Tournament. Head coach Tyler Frenzel spoke to the Press on the amazing early and mid-season strides, which dissipated too early following the injury of Jadon Bast less than a week before the state tournament.
"We had a really good year this summer. We made it to the semi finals of the Creighton Prep Omaha Tournament, which is the first time we ever did that in program history," Frenzel said. "It was nice to accomplish those things and they were playing really well midway through the year. We just didn't play so well at state... But give credit to the teams playing at state, they were playing and we just didn't get it done."
Creighton Prep Omaha Tournament showcased 32 of the top teams from Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Arkansas. It began with pool play on June 23, with the Roughriders coming out as the No.1 seed from their pool. In pool play, the Roughriders beat the team, Lincoln East, that would ultimately stand atop the tourney.
"That is a big tournament with all the best teams in the Midwest and even the country. There's 32 of the best teams and I believe West Fargo went 0-5 in that tournament... We just had a lot of fun from day to day, just advancing and finally making it to the semifinals," Frenzel said. "They gained a lot of confidence at that tournament which was nice to see and our seniors really carried us during that stretch of the season."
In the semifinal Dickinson would be knocked out by Millard South, of Nebraska, who had clinched their own Legion title.
Highlight reel senior pitcher in Drew Kovash struck out highly acclaimed stand-out Cam Kozeal, a committed player for the Division I Southeastern Conference Eastern team Vanderbilt University.
Frenzel said that their semifinal finish was a surreal experience and was probably the biggest accomplishment they achieved during the summer.
The Roughriders confidence would continue to soar as they went into the month of July and traveled to Montana for the Bozeman invitational. The double elimination tournament featured eight teams and after losing their opening game against Bozeman Bucks AA, Dickinson would push through adversity, fighting from behind against stiff competition to take it all.
Along the way they defeated Billings Royals in a 11-7 contest, starting the scoring with a home run courtesy of senior Aiden Haich. The Roughriders fell into a 3-1 deficit before cementing their lead with a six-run fourth inning, moving forward into the tourney. Billings' strength showed in their own accolades of summer, winning Montana Legion AA and the Billings Goldsmith Tournament.
The championship game in Montana featured an even more nail-biting finale coming 8-7 against the Farmers U17 of Brewster, Washington. Dickinson once again found themselves in a hole, but took the winning lead via Bast's three-run long shot at the bottom of the sixth inning.
"It was kind of unexpected," Frenzel said. "We haven't fared very well the past couple years in those big tournaments and it was nice to see us compete and win some games."
The Roughriders will say goodbye to five seniors, all of which Frenzel said have been instrumental to the team's successes over the summer. Four of the seniors would have the option to come back next year as "super seniors," with only Kovash ineligible to return.
According to Frenzel it hasn't happened too often in recent years, but he doesn't put it past this group of seniors to return.
"When I first started, I brought up this group of seniors," Frenzel said. "They were 15-years-old and I brought them all up to varsity. It is nice to see them grow and improve and do some good things that we haven't been able to do the past couple of years... A lot of times kids do come back, I know I came back my super senior year and played and so it's not that uncommon."
Frenzel says he challenges his younger players to live up to the same level of commitment seen from the team's senior group. With their absence next season, the younger players are being called upon to not only meet, but exceed the performance of this year.
"The younger guys definitely need to improve, especially if they want to compete at a higher level," Frenzel said. "They got their work cut out for them, but I think if they work hard and get after it that is absolutely something that they can achieve."