Valley City Baseball’s Depth Rejuvenates Competitive Spirit

TR Staff
Staff Writer

By Joey Marini
Though the spring weather may not be following suit, Valley City's Varsity Baseball team is in full swing. Coach Lance Lukes enters his 3rd season with the Hi-Liners and looks to continue the growth built from previous seasons. With a team of athletes from several different towns, the Hi-Liners are a culmination of local talent.
The five seniors playing for the Hi-Liners will be John Beutler (OF), Jacob Harstad (OF), Briar Harvey (IN/P), Mason Haugen (OF), and Russell Marker (IN). Valley's upperclassmen continues with six juniors, consisting of; Avery Bennefield (IN/P), Riley Gerhardt (IN/C), Easton Hesch (IN/C), Conner May (OF/P), Corey Nelson (OF/P/C), and Mitchel Taylor (IN/P). The team is currently rounded out with sophomores Cayden Lloyd (IN/OF/P), Alex Thornton (IN/P), and Tucker Brown (OF).
Currently, snow covers almost all athletic facilities in Valley City. There is very likelihood that a relentlessly viscous slush will follow, cascading onto the Charlie Brown Memorial Baseball Field, forcing the Hi-Liners to remain practicing indoors for the foreseeable future. Coach Lance Lukes however, does not fear the lack of baseball weather. With staggered practices between JV and Varsity, Coach Lukes has the opportunity to fine tune technical application with players at their own speed. The student-athletes are then able to receive undivided attention and effective coaching.
In 2017, Coach Lukes stated the primary emphasis of the Baseball team was going to be pitching and defense. Three seasons later, those two aspects still play a vital role in the success of the team. Coach Lukes stated that “They will always be a focus for baseball. It's just a necessity to throw strikes and keep the opposing teams limited.”
With a big grin across his face he continued, “I think we have a real opportunity, especially with the young kids, to make our expertise in those aspects well known.”
Being that Valley City has dramatically increased it's depth, plays well for the Hi-Liners. Having graduated five seniors, it has become essential for underclassmen to rise to the occasion and fill positions.
Coach Lukes also noted the threat of bigger schools. “Davies, West Fargo... those bigger teams will always have the numbers, so it's imperative to stay competitive. However, there are so many variables year to year in sport and there is no reason we can't play in the regional tournament.”
To advance into the regional tournament, Valley City will need to be ranked in the region's top 8. A few key losses left them just beyond post season competition last year. The Junior Varsity also receives a node from Coach Lukes, as they will be young but hopefully playing about their competition level. He hopes to see the athletes develop and prepare for a call to action, noting the likelihood that some will earn Varsity time later in the season.
With practices just beginning, it is expected to see growth in the team before opening pitch on March 29th in Bismarck, ND. There is also a disclaimer that the Varsity schedule may be tentative, catering to the almighty external variables of the fields, climate, and driving conditions. Coach Lukes believes the Bismarck game will go off without a hitch, and is excited to finally get the team, parents, and community involved. There will be five opportunities to see the Valley City Hi-Liners play here in town throughout the months of April and May, so stock up on your Blue and White!
The schedule is as follows:
March 29th – Away at Bismarck High @ 4:30pm
March 30th – Away at Bismarck against Dickinson @ 12:00pm
April 5th – Away at Grand Forks Central @ 5:00pm
April 9th – Home against Devil's Lake @ 5:00pm/7:00pm
April 16th – Away at Shanely @ 5:00pm
April 18th – Away at West Fargo @ 5:00pm/7:00pm
April 25th – Away at Grand Forks Red @ 5:00pm
April 26th – Home against Fargo South @ 5:00pm/7:00pm
May 3rd – Away at Fargo North @ 5:00pm/7:00pm
May 7th – Home against West Fargo @ 5:00pm/7:00pm
May 10th – Away at Fargo Davies @ 5:00pm/7:00pm
May 14th – Home against Wahpeton @ 5:00pm/7:00pm
May 16th – Away at Carrington @ 5:00pm/7:00pm
May 17th – Home against Aberdeen Central @ 5:00pm/7:00pm
May 21st, 24th, and 25th – TBD: EDC Tournament
May 30th – June 1st – TBD: State Tournament