HIBBING — Adam Schafer will be taking over the helm of the Hibbing American Legion Baseball team this season, and he’s hoping things can only go up.
That’s because the Hibbing High School baseball team had an up-and-down season, losing a lot of close games, but playing well enough to win some of them.
Schafer knows it takes some time for a baseball team to get into a groove, so he’s hoping this Post 222 team is ready to hit the ground running when they take on Superior in a doubleheader Sunday at Al Nyberg Field.
Game times are 3 and 5 p.m.
“I saw a few games this spring, and I think they played hard and fast,” Schafer said. That will be beneficial to us. That’s how I want them to play, aggressive and sell out for balls in the outfield.”
Schafer will have one college-age player, Nick Belich, then he will have Hayden Westerberg, Ryne Sampson and Codieh Powers, who are seniors out of the Hibbing program.
Joining them will be Eli Sundquist and Dan Rusten out of Chisholm, Joe Allison, Noah Vinopal, Travis Erickson, Nic Cicchi, Carter Anderson, Will Durie and Brody Niskanen. Schafer will roster some players, who may or may not end up playing this summer.
Hibbing should be strong on the mound with Sundquist and Powers as the top two pitchers.
“Eli had an incredible season with Chisholm,” Schafer said. “His stat lines, he was dominant in the spring. Powers was a workhorse in Hibbing. We’ll rely on our top two, then we have other guys filling in.
“Noah, Ryne and Hayden will see some time. We need pitching depth. That’s what wins it for you in the playoffs. We’ll rely heavily on those two, and as long as the others throw strikes, that’s the most important thing.”
Defensively is where Hibbing struggled in the spring. Schafer is hoping they’re rounding into shape as the summer season approaches.
“I know, at times, they had trouble picking up the ball,” Schafer said. “That comes from not having a lot of time outdoors. Seeing ground balls in the gym and the field are totally different things.
“Now that we’re in month three, we should be more consistent in picking up the ball. That has to be a top priority, throwing strikes and picking up the ball. That’s going to be a key as it always is.”
Offensively, Schafer wants them to be aggressive at the plate.
“I want them to be fast, aggressive and loose,” Schafer said. “If there’s a fastball strike early in the count, I want them to rip it. We want to put pressure on the defense and cause chaos.
“We’ll bunt and hit-and-run. We’ll keep it simple, but we want to be aggressive and put pressure on our opponents. It’s like playing whiffle ball in the backyard. You’re free swinging. Mentally, we have to go up there and rip it. We have to play freely.”
All of that must come into play because Sub-State 8 is going to be one tough bracket to get out of once playoff time begins.
West Duluth, Grand Rapids, Cloquet, Brainerd, Lakeview, Hermantown and Thunder Bay will make things difficult on Post 222.
“It’s a tough sub-state,” Schafer said. “It’s going to be important that we do the little things well. It’s going to be a dogfight. Maybe we can upset some teams and make some noise. Ultimately, our goal is state in Cold Spring.
“We have to play with that mentality all summer long. You can’t discount what happened in the spring, but they didn’t get into a groove. Even Major Leaguers need at least two months to get ready. By month three, I would expect us to be playing some good baseball.”
Schafer is looking forward to the challenge of managing this team.
“I don’t know what to expect, but I’m excited,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it because they are a good group. They’re coming out for the team, so they must like baseball. I’m optimistic.
“We have to come out and compete every day, and play hard and fast. We have the opportunity to do something different. At the end of the day, it’s these kids competing and playing baseball. That’s what it’s all about.”