‘Basic baseball’ carries Hornets to state tourney

Harvey-Wells County baseball coach Chuck Nyhus acknowledged that he knows nothing about Region 1 champion Central Cass, the Hornets’ first-round opponent at the Class B state tournament.

Not that any knowledge of the Squirrels would change Nyhus’ coaching strategy. H-WC spent this season focusing on what it does well, and that approach has worked so far.

The Hornets (9-1) won the Region 5 tournament championship game 3-2 over North Star-Leeds to earn a berth in the state tournament. H-WC’s matchup with Central Cass will begin at approximately 2 p.m. today at Mandan Memorial Ballpark.

“We wouldn’t prepare any differently if we knew anything about (Central Cass),” Nyhus said. “We play basic baseball. We’ll try and manufacture some runs early in the game and then build on it, put the ball in play. We don’t do anything fancy.”

H-WC lost just one senior from a team that finished third in its region last season. This year, a deep, experienced batting order and a pitching staff anchored by seniors Austan Schmidt and Todd Selzler has the Hornets playing into June.

Nyhus said the right-handed Selzler throws with more velocity but Schmidt gives opponents a different look with his left-handed delivery and variety of off-speed pitches. Both hurlers boast sub-2.00 ERAs.

“Those guys have put in a lot of time, have a lot of experience, and they really both want it,” said Mark Nyhus, Chuck’s son and the Hornets’ junior catcher. “I think they can get the job done.”

Mark, the team’s No. 2 hitter, leads the Hornets with a .600 batting average. He is followed in the order by Selzler (.430) and junior cleanup Landon Littlefield (.400).

“It’s nice batting between those two because they’re both great hitters,” Selzler said. “The pitchers have to come at you every pitch. They know they can’t walk me or one of those other guys because there are more good hitters behind them.”

H-WC’s strengths are typical harbingers of postseason success. But each of the eight state-tournament teams is still playing for a reason, and Mark Nyhus stopped short of making any bold predictions.

“I think we played our best baseball during the (region) tournament,” he said. “We had good, solid defense. Of course we hope to do real well at state and of course we hope to go there and win. It’s our goal, but we’ll just take it one game at a time and do our best.”

The winner of H-WC and Central Cass will play the winner of Carrington and Trenton-Trinity Christian in a semifinal on Friday.