ENDERLIN, N.D.-Pitching depth is a luxury Kevin Bratland's Enderlin-Maple Valley baseball team has enjoyed this spring.
The Falcons' pitching staff is anchored by a trio of right-handed starters-senior Spencer Gillund and juniors Adam Stenson and Jesse Johnson. Johnson attends Maple Valley High School in Tower City, N.D., while Stenson and Gillund both attend Enderlin High School.
"I have confidence in all three of them in any situation," said Bratland, who is in his second year as head coach of the co-op team after being a longtime assistant. "We have other quality arms that we can throw too, but the way our schedule is set up we can throw Spencer, Jesse and Adam, mainly."
Through Saturday's tournament in Enderlin the three standout pitchers have a posted a combined earned run average of 1.10 per seven innings.
Gillund leads the way with a 0.33 ERA, allowing one earned run while striking out 15 in 21 ⅓ innings this spring.
"We have relied heavily on our pitching," said Gillund, who is 3-0 in three starts. "When the offense isn't producing we can rely on our pitching and it is something we always look to as a key part in wins."
Gillund, who remains undecided on where he will play collegiately next year, said he fits the mold of a "pitch-to-contact" pitcher and said the Falcons' defense has played a big role in his success.
"I'm a big rhythm guy," said Gillund, who has received interest from North Dakota State. "I like working fast and I rely heavily on my changeup for a strikeout pitch. The defense behind me has made plays this year and that is all I can ask for."
Stenson, who wears thick-rimmed glasses on the mound similar to eyewear actor Charlie Sheen donned while playing Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in the Major League movies.
The "Wild Thing" persona is something Stenson doesn't shy away from. Stenson has the velocity to back it up and has been an intimidating presence on the hill for the Falcons this spring striking out 29 batters with a 0.77 ERA in 27 ⅓ inning pitched.
"My fastball has increased in velocity from last season," said Stenson, who is 3-0 this season. "I put in some time in the offseason to work on that and my control is a lot better as well thanks to the offseason bullpens."
Johnson has experienced some hard luck in his starts this season. He is 0-4, but sports a 1.98 ERA and leads the team in strikeouts with 40. Two of Johnson's losses have come in one-run ballgames and another came in a relief appearance.
The depth has allowed each pitcher on the Falcons' staff to remain sharp with plenty of rest between starts.
"It's nice being able to have a couple games off and not having to throw," Johnson said. "Whenever you have two other guys that can each throw seven innings in a big region game and your arm can rest it is nice."
Junior Jorun Hamre (4-0), Dalton Anderson (2-0) and Michael Vavra (1-0) also have posted wins for the Falcons, who are 13-7 with less than a week remaining before the start of the Region 1 tournament. Region play kicks off Saturday at Northern Cass High School.
Enderlin-Maple Valley is 6-3 in Region 1 play this spring and sit in second place behind Kindred-Richland (7-2) with two region games left to play.
"Our pitching is going to be there, but we have to score runs," Stenson said of the Region 1 tournament. "Jesse Johnson is 0-4 and two of the games were one-run games. We have to support him more in scoring runs and we should be fine."