After a two-year stint as a Region 5 member, the Surrey-Our Redeemer's Christian School baseball team has returned to the familiarity of Region 6.
In an offseason that saw plenty of realignment across the state, the Mustangs made the region change along with Bishop Ryan, replacing Beulah and Hazen, which moved to Region 8. Surrey-ORCS spent 15 seasons in Region 6 before the brief region switch.
Surrey-ORCS coach Bruce Mack said the two-year absence in the region won't leave the Mustangs ill-prepared.
"I'm still familiar with the teams," he said. "We still played some of those teams the past two years because of the proximity."
Surrey finished last season 16-15 after a shutout loss to Rugby in the first round of the region tournament.
The departure of Beulah and Hazen leaves the region wide open for each of the six teams. The Miners won the region title last season with a convincing 11-1 victory over second-seeded Velva-Drake-Anamoose. Hazen finished third.
Meet the Mustangs
Seniors - Chris Olson, Tanner Strand
Juniors - Brenden Larson, Cole Zaderaka
Sophomores - Blake Bakken, Jacob Burckhard, Noah Knipp, Bridger Urban, Nathan Brown, Trever Ringoen.
Freshmen - Seth Aberle, John Reiten
Eighth graders - Breyden Lee, Tyler Willis
April - 8, vs. Sawyer, 4 p.m.; 12, vs. Central McLean, 4 p.m.; 16, at Garrison-Max, 4 p.m.; 18, at Bishop Ryan, 4 p.m.; 23, at Velva-Drake-Anamoose, 4 p.m.; 25, at Sawyer, 4 p.m.; 30, at Central McLean, 4 p.m.
May - 2, vs. Garrison-Max, 4 p.m.; 3, at Des Lacs-Burlington, 4 p.m.; 7, vs. Bishop Ryan, 4 p.m.; 10, vs. Velva-Drake-Anamoose, 4 p.m.; 11, vs. Des Lacs-Burlington, noon; 20-23, Region 6 tournament at Corbett Field; 30-June 1, state tournament at Mandan.
"It'll be pretty good for us," sophomore Bridger Urban said. "We're a well-balanced team, still pretty young. We lost a couple good players last year, but it should be a good year."
Central McLean, Sawyer and Garrison-Max round out the region. Mack said the Mustangs will be competitive in region play this season, but gave the edge to Ryan and Velva-Drake-Anamoose.
"I would say, just looking at the teams that are in (the region), traditionally the teams that have been consistent at the top of their regions like Bishop Ryan and Velva, they've been on top of their respective regions," Mack said. "With Ryan coming into that region, it's definitely going to put another good team in there. They are probably the top two teams in the region with tradition and experience coming back."
The Mustangs are young, but experienced. Surrey-ORCS' roster features just one senior who saw playing time last season in Chris Olson. Tanner Strand is the only other senior on the team.
"It'll be a little bit of a drawback," Urban said of the lack of seniors on the roster, "but we'll pull through."
Olson and junior Brendan Larson are expected to have a major impact with both their bats and arms. The duo will be two of the many options Mack will use on the mound this season.
"We're going to need to have a lot of guys throw because the more arms we have the better off we're going to be," Mack said. "I don't really have an ace on my staff. I just have a lot of kids to call on to throw and throw well."
Mack also named sophomores Trever Ringoen and Noah Knipp and freshman John Reiten as those expected to make big contributions this season.
"Talent-wise, I think we're pretty solid," Mack said. "We're going to be solid up and down the lineup offensively and defensively."
As has been the case for most teams, practice time has been severely limited due to unplayable field conditions. Mack said the team has only been able to have a handful of practices in the last few weeks because of the snow remnants on the ballfield.
The weather has already caused today's season opener against Thompson to be cancelled. It won't be made up. Mack said he doesn't see the Mustangs being able to host games until the end of the month.
With the depleted practice time, Mack is banking on experience from last season to be the recipe for a successful season.
"Hopefully that youth and the lack of senior leadership doesn't have a lot of effect on us," Mack said. "Those kids have some experience from last year and played some good baseball. Hopefully we can carry that over to this season."