Laurel Dodgers earn #1 seed, bye at districts

By: 
CHRIS MCCONNELL
Outlook staff writer

The Laurel Dodgers are heading to the Eastern A District tournament in Miles City today having earned the number one seed through a 22-2 conference record.
They received the first round bye and will face the winner of tonight’s game between #4 Miles City Mavericks and #5 Glasgow Reds at 7 p.m. tomorrow night; teams they are a combined 8-0 against this year.
Although the Dodgers had the best record in their league by far, Head Coach Doug Studiner stressed they still are taking one game at a time.
“We are not a cocky team, but we are confident in our abilities. Our leaders are humble players who take nothing for granted. We set lofty goals at the beginning of the season and we’re taking it one step at a time and focusing on the task at hand,” he said.
The Dodgers have much to be confident about.
Along with seven more wins than the next closest team, in their last five league games they averaged 16.6 runs per game to their opponents 6.8. They also batted .351 as a team for the season with Dawson Cortese leading all players with a .527 average and 10 home runs.
Team co-captains Cortese and Carson Hoke acknowledged they are a strong hitting team, but need a strong defense with minimal errors to achieve their goals at the district tournament.
“We need to limit our errors, especially when we get tired,” Cortese said, and Hoke agreed, “Yeah, stay focused and limit mistakes [including] walks and errors.”
The team’s focus and determination was evident at their pre-tournament practices this week.
Studiner and his assistant coaches–Cory Hansen and Dakota Cortese–had the team focus on situational hitting and bunt defense, constantly mixing up positions to keep the players sharp.
The few times Dodger players missed an assignment, a coach’s sign or had a poor at-bat, they faced a “consequence” from Coach Studiner.
If the coach yelled “State Champs,” the player who made the mistake had to sprint to center field and touch the Dodger state championship banner, then sprint back.
There were no repeat offenders.
While addressing the team during practice on Monday, Studiner said they need to practice like it’s a game.
“We got tense in the tight game [last] Monday; we need to execute during the game and know bunt situations.”
Assistant Coach Hansen added, “We cannot give teams extra outs; all we’ve got to do is execute once and they’re done.”
Last Monday they committed seven errors in a close victory against the Billings Blue Jays.
“The errors compounded and [the team] got tighter at the end,” Studiner recalled.
The 2017 team has evolved and improved over the season and Studiner said it took some time to build team chemistry, even with many of the same players returning.
“We have two new assistant coaches this year and picked up some new players. Our core team was back but it takes awhile to develop and grow as a team,” he said.
The Dodgers are driving to Miles City today to participate in the parade of teams for the opening ceremonies beginning at 6 p.m., then begin their postseason run Friday at 7 p.m.

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