Eagles again: Enderlin baseball team transitions back to individual program for first time since 2001
Enderlin, a Class B baseball benchmark in the 1990s, previously operated as a co-op with Maple Valley
ENDERLIN, N.D. — For the first time since 2001, the Enderlin High School baseball team will run out of the dugout and take the field as the Enderlin Eagles.
For the last 20 years, Enderlin had operated as a co-op with Maple Valley. The team played under the “Falcons” banner, taking one color from each school (black and red) with the Falcons being selected by players as the team name, an ode to former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who was one of the most explosive players in the NFL at the time.
“We adopted the red and black colors at that time and then the kids decided on the Falcons,” said longtime coach Kevin Bratland. “And I think the reason for that was because Michael Vick was a hot item. One of the kids kind of persuaded everybody to vote for the Falcons, so that’s kind of how the Falcons came about.”
This season, however, the Falcons will become extinct and the Eagles will migrate south to Enderlin to come into their own again.
“As far as school pride and everything, the alumni are more excited about it,” Bratland said. “But you hate to lose a co-op, and we were pretty successful in that co-op. So we’re moving on from where we’re at right now and we’re ready to make do with what we have.”
Enderlin-Maple Valley made the North Dakota Class B baseball state tournament three times in 2010, 2018 and 2019.
Enderlin on its own was a benchmark for Class B baseball in the 1990s. The Eagles have made the Class B state tournament 13 times in individual program history, six of those times coming in the ‘90s. Enderlin has won the state title three times, with wins coming in 1950, 1990 and 1997.
Bratland said transitioning back to a standalone program is much like a rebuild. While some experience returns for the Eagles, they’ll also be looking to the “farm” for players who can step in and contribute each game.
“We’re probably going to have to pull kids up from junior high now, which we’ve never had to do before,” Bratland said. “They’re going to be facing better pitching and everything is going to be a little bit faster for them. From Day 1, we’re throwing them right into the fire and seeing how they respond and hopefully they’re up for the task. We’ve got some decent kids down there, so we’re going to count on them to help us out.”
Bratland realizes this year could be a bumpy one with just one senior returning, but the bar is still set high.
“Last year, after some successful years in 2018 and 2019 when we went to state,” he said. “And we would’ve returned a pretty good team with the Maple Valley kids in 2020, but obviously we didn’t play. We had to try to rebuild last year. We played a lot of freshmen, a junior high kid and we had one senior last year. We’ll have one senior again this year. So those kids took some lumps and we didn’t get any region wins, so obviously we’ve got some goals to get some region wins. We’re hoping that experience that they had last year is going to carry over and so far from what we’ve seen in the gym, things are looking good. They’re attacking the process pretty good.
“The main thing is building up our pitching. Last year, we took a lot of lumps with our pitching and I think the experience they had last spring in high school and through the Legion season is going to pay off here for us.”
In order to get back to the state tournament for the first time since 2019 and the first time as a standalone program since 2001, Bratland again attributed depth on the mound.
“Obviously the key ingredient there is getting pitching depth,” he said. “Over the years — and I’ve been at this for quite a while — you’ve got to get a solid pitching staff and a deep one. Kids that are able to throw strikes consistently. We’re counting on pitchers Carson Bartholomay, Caden Amerman and Kashden Wadeson to take the next step and help us in that area. Then of course a solid defense, those are the two biggest things.
“Then you have to get hot at the right time with the bats. Getting timely hits. We’re hoping these kids work their way into that. We’re throwing everybody on the mound right now. We told them when they showed up for practice that if you can throw a ball, you’re going to try pitching. And that’s where we’re at right now.”
Bratland said a couple innings were the difference between winning and losing in multiple games last season.
“We competed in most games last year, but encountered one or two innings where we couldn’t get out of those innings,” he said. “We need to learn to overcome those tough patches and get out of those types of innings.”
Bratland hopes that changes this year, along with maintaining a consistent offense.
“Offensively, we need to be more consistent in putting the ball in play,” he said.
Enderlin is slated to open the season at home against Fargo Oak Grove on April 5 with first pitch set for 5 p.m.