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Osakis baseball mixes talent with intelligence

Osakis senior Jordan Frederick slides into third base before the tag is applied against Brandon-Evansville last Tuesday. Frederick was on second when a ball was hit to short. He advanced to third after waiting for the throw over to first base before taking off. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

The Osakis baseball team was in the middle innings of the Section 5A title game on June 7, 2013 when the Silverstreaks made a play that was likely overlooked by many, but one that has come to define this team over the past few seasons.

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Osakis was holding a 6-1 lead after three innings that day and it would take a few mistakes by the Silverstreaks to let Hinckley-Finlayson back in the game with the way senior Ky Zimmel was pitching. The Jaguars had put runners on first and second with nobody out when they hit a ground ball into the hole at second base.

Then a junior, Lane Berberich fielded the ball and could have turned and tried to start a double play in what would have been a close play at second. Instead, he made the smart decision with a big lead by getting the easy out at first. The Jaguars’ threat that inning never amounted to anything, and Osakis went on to win 8-1.

For as talented as that state runner-up team was last year, the intelligence that they played with on the field was equally as important. It’s a trend that they are trying to continue this season as they make the jump to the AA level.

“Me, Lane, Jordan [Frederick] and Hunter [Scherr] have played together for 10, 11 years,” current senior shortstop Drew Fearing said. “We just learned that little stuff from that young age, and we carry that to this. I think other kids didn’t have that opportunity, so they don’t really have that intelligence. We just use it to our advantage.”

That group of seniors has earned the trust of head coach Shad Schmidt to the point where they all have the green light on the base paths. They have proven enough over the years that they know how to make the right play in the field and on the bases.

“We have some guys in the top of the lineup that are very smart,” Schmidt said. “They’re baseball guys that have very high baseball IQs. We’re going to have to rely on them to do that stuff. We just need guys 5-8 to do that and guys to learn from those guys and follow along and do the same thing. We’re really pressing those guys to step up, so hopefully they will now that we got a few games under our belt.”

The Silverstreaks showed they can manufacture some runs on nights when the bats are not clicking in a 5-2 win over Brandon-Evansville last Tuesday night. Osakis had just five hits that game but scored five unearned runs.

The Silverstreaks knew they could run on the Chargers and did that to the tune of nine stolen bases. A lot of those came from second to third by just being aware that the pitcher wasn’t looking them back to the bag.

Osakis also took third base on multiple occasions after ground balls to the left side of the infield by knowing when to take off on the throw to first base. Those might seem small in the grand scheme of things, but the extra bases and simply limiting mistakes make a big difference at the high school level.

“We just call it Osakis baseball,” Schmidt said. “The guys know when I say, ‘Hey, this is not Osakis baseball.’ They know that we’re not playing the way we’re supposed to. On the other hand, when I say, ‘Hey, that’s Osakis baseball.’ They know what I’m getting at. We’ve kind of had that the last few years with those kids because they’ve played so much baseball, and they have that baseball IQ.”

Schmidt now wants to see some of that translate a little more at the plate. He thought his lineup gave too many at-bats away in some uncomfortably cold conditions against the Chargers last week. He told his guys after the game that he would give them a little bit of a pass because of the weather, but that those kinds of things can’t happen against the AA competition they will face down the road.

These players know they will need to be at their best, both physically and mentally, against the likes of Rocori and St. Cloud Cathedral if they play them in the Section 6AA tournament. Their talent mixed with intelligence brought them all the way to a state runner-up finish last year. They lost some good players off that team, but that same combination is why they still believe in themselves in what they know will be a tough section field in June.

“I think our team is just as good as every other team,” Fearing said. “We might be the smallest school in AA, but I think we have a good shot. If we play our ball, I don’t know why we can’t be in all the games and winning them.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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