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Lions baseball looking forward to 2022

Submitted Photo Josh Will (left, 23) tags a baserunner during a Bishop Ryan baseball game this season.

The Bishop Ryan Lions baseball squad fell short of its ultimate goal in Jamestown during the first weekend of June, but robust offensive numbers and a steady pitching staff helped lead head coach Benjamin Magnuson’s team through a dominant and uncertain 2021 season.

The Lions, anxious to begin play after their lost 2020 campaign, exuded confidence and effort from the season’s first pitch. The team established its skill level and shook off the rust rather quickly with wins in six of its first seven games spanning April 6-19 in a season that would see it finish second in the regular season standings with a 21-8 final record.

Perhaps even more impressive, Bishop Ryan demonstrated remarkable resiliency, losing two or more consecutive games on just two occasions throughout the season. Five of its eight losses entering the end-of-May Region 6 tournament fell April 19-20 and May 15-17.

“We would throw out a poor performance and I feel like we always did a good job of bouncing back, and not allowing that to snowball and lose multiple games in a row,” Magnuson said. “The kids did a good job of understanding when things went poorly in a game and coming back after a loss and playing hard with a little bit of a veangance.”

The team was buoyed by its outstanding offensive numbers throughout the year, as 10 hitters finished the year with a batting average of at least .319. Logan Merck’s .515 mark in 34 games paced the team, as did his 11 doubles, four triples and three home runs.

Led by Merck, the Lions would go on to score 256 total runs in their 29 regular season games, or an average of just under nine per game. The team scored double-digit runs 10 times during the regular season, highlighted by its 17-7 victory over Harvey/Wells County April 29.

“At the beginning of the year, we didn’t know exactly what we were going to get or what we were going to be,” Magnuson added. “You don’t really know how these kids develop from their sophomore to senior years or freshman to junior years. The kids played really hard all year, they played to the best of their abilities, and they had a lot of fun doing it. It was a fun year and a fun group of kids to coach.”

Bishop Ryan finished its regular season with three straight losses to Langdon Area/Edmore/Munich and Renville County, but once again displayed their resiliency to begin the Region 6 tournament with an 8-4 victory against the Surrey Mustangs May 24.

The Lions then defeated Garrison in an 11-1 rout to advance to the championship round, but fell to the Velva-Drake/Anamoose Aggies 11-10 on a dark, windy May 25 afternoon to force a decisive Game 2.

The team again quickly bounced back, claiming the Region 6 title and the fifth seed entering the 2021 Class B State Tournament in Jamestown with an 8-6 win over Velva May 27. Making a state tournament appearance for the 20th time in school history, the Lions’ bid for their seventh title fell were dashed with a 4-2 loss to Thompson in their quarterfinal matchup June 3.

“That was one of those games where walks got the best of us,” Magnuson recalled. “We had one inning when they scored their four runs, and I think we walked four or five in that inning, made an error in that inning, and it ended up costing us because you gave up four, and then at the plate and defensively, Thompson was just stellar. I think that stung for the kids.”

The Lions responded with a narrow 2-1 victory against Beulah in the consolation semifinals before wrapping up their season with a 6-3 loss to Central Cass in the game for fifth place June 5.

“That second game, they came out and we played a Beulah team that we hammered on earlier in the year,” Magnuson said of the Lions’ 16-0 April 24 win against the Miners. “We knew they weren’t going to be that bad in the state tournament and the kids played really well.”

Despite the early exit from the tournament, Magnuson remained proud of how his team competed in a season when no one quite knew what to expect. He pointed to his players’ strong work ethic and their ability to take care of business against lesser teams as the catalyst for their successful season.

With the departures of Merck, Jaxon Feller, Seth Roedocker, Nick Sanders, Andrew Mineke and Bryson Elm to graduation, the team will now look to usher in a new era of Lions baseball as the team gets younger heading into the 2022 season.

Josh Will, who hit .322 with 25 RBI in 34 games, and Caden Dauphanais, who hit .176 in limited action, will be the lone two seniors on next year’s squad, as well as the duo the coaching staff will look to in leading the Lions back to the promised land.

“Our expectations are always going to be to get to that region championship and at least give ourselves a chance to go to the state tournament,” Magnuson said. “Those young kids are going to have to step into full-time roles and be productive for us, and I think with another year of summer baseball and another year of them getting bigger and stronger, we’ll be able to do that.”

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