2018 was memorable for the Ogilvie Lions baseball team, as they won their first playoff game in a decade. The entire team has returned for 2019, and their experience and dedication has led to one of their strongest seasons in years.
“This has been a very good year,” said head coach Benji Besser. “It’s a great turnaround for Ogilvie baseball. Lots of our games have been very close; I tell the guys that, considering the ‘woulda-coulda-shouldas’ in those games, we could be at 12-2 right now.”
“Braham and Hinckley-Finlayson will be seeded ahead of us, but they didn’t scare us. Nobody scares us.”
After 14 games the Lions hold a 7-7 record, third place in Section 5 A East and fourth in the Great River Conference. The team finished last year at 2-14, sixth place in the subsection and eighth in the conference. They defeated longtime foe Isle in the first postseason round, then lost to eventual Section champion Hinckley-Finlayson.
The turnaround, Besser said, comes from the players’ outlook and leadership. “We’ve had guys who’ve played together for many years. I’ve told them how, if they all buy into the process, we have a chance to win the GRC this year. I’m not going to tell the guys that unless I believe it,” he said. “The seniors have stepped up and said that they want to go out on a high note. So during long days of indoor practice we worked on the fundamentals, and soon the guys started to buy in.”
Besser said that mental toughness is the Lions’ biggest challenge right now. “Many of our losses were due to mental mistakes; players can get down on themselves. But that’s the difference between winning the conference and finishing in fourth place,” he said. “Blake Heins and Jake Felde, both seniors, have been the most focused and are the leaders on the team. Juniors Brian Nelson and Jacksen Pettit have played since eighth grade. Sophomore Wyatt Heins and freshmen Jon Brasch and Caleb Felde will be great contributors.”
“I wish I had another year with all of these players. It would be unbelievable, what we could do.”
The Lions wrap up the regular season with games against St. John’s Prep and East Central. Subsection playoffs begin on Thursday, May 23. “If I look at the rankings right now, we should play either Onamia or East Central on Thursday,” said Besser. “If we can put everything together and be mentally tough, we’ll be confident. The enthusiasm picks up when you get some Ws on the board.”
Section 5 A playoffs start on Monday, June 3, and the state tournament begins on Thursday, June 13.