Posted 3/29/16 (Tue)
By Jody Michael
Ray High School’s baseball and softball teams are practicing ahead of season-opening home games April 5.
The baseball team will be in its third season of play. In their first two years, the Jays have been neck-and-neck with Stanley for fifth and sixth place in the seven-team region, and have only occasionally held their own against the top four.
But head coach Ben Schafer said with every year his players are able to gain a little more ground on the more experienced clubs.
“We’re hoping to be more competitive night in and night out,” Schafer said. “We’ve got some talented, athletic kids. I think we’ll be able to put nine decent guys on the field.”
Another reason to be optimistic about the Jays’ competitiveness is that Schafer expects the top of the region, namely reigning champ Lewis and Clark-Parshall and runner-up Watford City, to be weaker this season.
“Watford City lost a ton, and so did Lewis and Clark,” Schafer said, adding that he thinks MLS-Glenburn-Kenmare-Bowbells is the favorite.
The Jays are once again counting on their underclassmen to step up in big ways. Four of last year’s regular varsity starters are still only freshmen and sophomores, and now their lone upperclassman pitcher has graduated.
“We put in some extra pitching practice that should be beneficial,” Schafer said. “Our pitchers are pretty young. I think our oldest is a sophomore.”
The schedule opens with home games next Tuesday, Thursday and Friday against Des Lacs-Burlington, MLS-Glenburn-Kenmare-Bowbells and New Town, respectively. A second homestand will feature games April 28 vs. Watford City, April 29 vs. Lewis and Clark-Parshall and May 5 vs. Stanley.
The softball team is in its second season and will look to improve upon an inaugural year that was promising at times but short on victories.
Last year’s two wins both came against fellow newcomers Heart River, but the Jays’ narrowest defeats happened to come against the region’s top two finishers, Stanley (lost by four runs) and Westhope-Newburg-Bottineau (six).
Two more schools have joined the west region this year, as Beulah and Washburn are sponsoring high school softball teams for the first time.
The Jays’ roster lists one senior, two juniors and two sophomores but 20 players between seventh and ninth grade.
Matt Ray is coaching the team once again this season.
Home softball games are April 5 vs. Westhope-Newburg-Bottineau, April 7 vs. Stanley, April 12 vs. Washburn, April 21 vs. Watford City, April 29 vs. Heart River and May 2 vs. Beulah.
All home games for both teams start at 4:30 p.m.