New look, same expectations

Up and down the lineup as well as at the top of the coaching staff, there’s not much resembling last year’s Minot Metros team, which advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament

Jason Steele takes over the coaching reins from Travis Smith and inherits 12 newcomers on the 14-man roster. Only Jaden Wahlund and Andrew Hunter return from last year.

“A lot of them have all played together at the high school level,” Steele said. “I’ve coached a lot of them. They’re not going to be jumping into a different coaching style of coaching philosophy. That will be an easy transition.”

Ten members of the Metros played together on Minot High School’s junior varsity team. Trever Ringoen brings experience at the varsity level after playing a vital role in Surrey-Our Redeemer’s Christian School’s lineup this year. Wahlund and Arnold will play leadership roles as well.

“I hope I can lead the team to be competitive in all our games and compete well with the East (teams) too,” Wahlund said.

Having limited practice time, Steele will get a good look at his team’s potential at 5:30 p.m. tonight against Grand Forks in game one of a doubleheader at Corbett Field. Grand Forks defeated the Metros in the state tournament last year, dropping Minot into the losers bracket.

“We’re going to have to hit and score runs,” Steele said. “Our pitchers are going to have to throw strikes and we’re going to have to gain confidence early.”

The Metros have plenty of pitchers to turn to. Ten Metros could see time on the mound with Liam Owens and Cody Reynolds being the primary hurlers. The field behind Minot’s pitching staff is a mix of speed, notably in the outfield. Arnold and Ringoen anchor the outfield and Travis Walker, Alex Arrayan, Conor Taney and Braden Lach are able to play one of the three positions if needed.

“Pitching and defense will be the key,” Wahlund said. “If we can pitch well, we’ll be in all the games we play and compete well.”

Steele said a strong start to the season is crucial with the unbalanced schedule the Metros face. After hosting Grand Forks, Minot plays nine of its last 10 June doubleheaders on the road. When the calendar flips to July, the Metros finish the regular season with six of seven series at home.

Steele said the schedule isn’t ideal, but could prove beneficial.

“With the majority of our games on the road, we’re going to have to have success early,” he said. “If we do, that will help us become a better team and gain more confidence because we turn around and have six home games in July and one road game.”

If there was ever an incentive to make it to the state tournament, this would be the year. Corbett Field – being used for the first time since the 2011 flood – will host the tournament this season beginning July 25.

“I want to be holding up a state championship trophy, especially on our field,” Steele said. “I’ve played in regional tournaments. I’ve coached regional tournaments. I want to get back there.”