After an extended absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local baseball is set to resume.
The Williston Keybirds, playing this summer as part of the Babe Ruth League, will square off against the Miles City Outlaws in doubleheader action on Wednesday, June 3, at Ardean Aafedt Stadium. The first game of the evening is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. start.
In preparation for the season, Williston began a truncated spring training practice schedule on May 19. Meanwhile, Keybirds head coach Shawn Egge says that despite the abnormal circumstances, which did not allow his players to play baseball in the spring, his expectations for the club this year are running high.
“The first few weeks will be very interesting because that span of games will tell us who we are as a team,” Egge tells the Williston Herald. “We lost a few arms from last year’s team, but I think some of the older kids can step in and fill those roles. Overall, I think we have a good chance to do as well or even better than we did a year ago. Most of our players have been playing together since they were little, so it feels great to get back to that family atmosphere.”
While pitchers Brady Aberle and Zach Carson have moved on, as well as position players Chance Johnson and Jack Heen, Egge has replenished the Keybirds’ roster with a total of five 16-year olds on the team, the most amount of players in that age group in Egge’s tenure with the Keybirds.
The Williston baseball mentor believes his young quintet, which includes Sawyer Hanson, Ashton Collings, Jackson Ekblad, Kallen Clouse and Carter Bakken, will all become contributors at some this summer. As for Williston’s upcoming opponent, Miles City is a very familiar non-conference foe, who coach Egge credits with usually bringing out the best in his Keybird players.
“They always come ready to play, and they have good talent on the mound and in their starting lineup. I’m sure they will make us work hard and earn everything that we get, so I think this will be a great early season test for our club.”
Meanwhile, Egge feels the upcoming summer baseball season has an even greater meaning as it will help both players and fans return to activities of enjoyment that have been interrupted by the pandemic.
“Opening Day this year is extremely important because it will give people an opportunity to come down to the park and enjoy a ballgame again, and it will give everyone a sense of normalcy to their daily routine that has been missing lately,” the coach states. “Baseball has been a part of our lives for so long, and dealing with the uncertainty of when we can start up again has been tough on everyone.”