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ND state baseball: Fargo South's surge aided by adjustments at practice

The Fargo South baseball team was having trouble at the plate a few weeks back when coach Donn Bryant decided it was time for the Bruins to see live pitching in practice.

Fargo South's Zach Noriega
Fargo South's Zach Noriega warms up the boys baseball team at practice on Tuesday. Sayward Honer / The Forum

The Fargo South baseball team was having trouble at the plate a few weeks back when coach Donn Bryant decided it was time for the Bruins to see live pitching in practice.

It's been smooth sailing ever since.

"I think that has helped tremendously," said South senior Justin Fahy, whose team opens the North Dakota Class A state baseball tournament Thursday against Bismarck Century in Jamestown. "It's just like being in a game situation, pretty much. Our practices are just as tough as games."

It's no wonder.

The live pitching that South is facing each day is some of the best in the state.

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The Bruins' pitching staff finished the regular season with an earned run average of 1.12. South's top three starters - Kyle Kingsley, David Ernst and Zach Noriega - have combined to go 13-3.

The rotation has tossed four no-hitters this year.

So it's safe to say pitching has been the Bruins' strength all year.

"Pitching has been phenomenal," Bryant said. "We've preached to them to throw strikes, don't walk people, let them hit it. ... I knew our pitching was solid coming back (from last year)."

Bryant said he was unsure heading into the season how the Bruins would respond to losing 12 seniors from a team that advanced to the state title game a year ago. Williston defeated South 1-0 for the championship.

The biggest area of concern was the middle infield.

However, Bryant said senior Matt Wawers stepped in admirably at second base, and a platoon of sophomores Ernst and Brady Horner at shortstop have provided defensive stability.

"We're solid defensively," said Bryant, whose team earned the Eastern Dakota Conference tournament title after being edged by Fargo Shanley for the regular-season crown. "We still make some young mistakes, but they have got it down."

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A late-season hitting slump was snapped in the EDC tournament a few days after Bryant's live pitching experiment began. Bryant also introduced a curveball machine into every practice.

South (22-5) averaged eight runs and nine hits in three EDC tournament games.

"We just don't give up," Kingsley said. "If we're behind late in the game, we just keep fighting. ... That's what the coaches try to instill in us from the first day. The fight is not over until the last out is made."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler's blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com

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