BF Baseball Season Preview

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The Belle Fourche Broncs Baseball Team, now in their third season as a member of the South Dakota High School Baseball Association (SDHSBA), are set to open their season down in Hot Springs, weather pending, on Friday March 29th in a varsity doubleheader against Bennett County and Hot Springs. The Broncs will field a varsity team this season as well as a junior varsity team that will consist primarily of 8th, 9th, and 10th graders.

We got a chance to sit down with Belle Fourche Broncs Head Coach Randy Doran to ask him five questions heading into the 2024 SDHSBA Season.

Question (Q): The Broncs are still fairly new to the South Dakota High School Baseball scene, could you fill in readers on how Belle Fourche did the past couple seasons in the SDHSBA?

Coach Doran (CD): For sure, its hard to believe we are already in year three playing in the SDHSBA. The SDHSBA is split into two Classes, A and B, and we are in Class B. The decision to join the league was in large part to the 2022 seniors who were overwhelmingly in favor of undertaking this endeavor. Thanks to that group of six seniors we were able to kind of take the region by surprise in our first season, finishing with an 11-9 record, 9-6 in Class B games, as well as a third-place finish in the ten team Region IV before losing in the regional championship game just a couple runs shy of making the state tournament. We had five players chosen to the All-Region team that year, and two others receiving Academic All-State honors. Last year, the region knew the level of talent we had on our team, and I think every game we played we saw our opponent’s best pitchers and best lineups. We finished the 2023 campaign with an 11-5 record, 9-2 in Class B games, and tied for second place in Region IV. The 2023 squad featured five seniors that were major contributors to our first two years in the in the league. We had six players on the All-Region team and two Academic All-State players on the 2023 squad. Unfortunately, we ran out of steam at the end of the year and couldn’t move forward in the region tournament.

Q: Having 6 seniors in 2022, and 5 more seniors in 2023, what do you have for returners this year?

CD: Having 11 players graduate the past two years is definitely a lot for any program, however, the cupboard is not bare, this team will have seven returning letterwinners that I will rely heavily on for their experience. The strength of our team this year will be with our two seniors, Nolan Wahlfeldt and Aiden Voyles. These two have been everyday starters since they were sophomores, and each had a stellar 2023 season. Nolan will be a player that will gather a lot of attention and focus from opposing teams and has worked on establishing himself as one of the top pitching arms in our region featuring a mid-80’s mph fastball, and a nasty curveball. Over the past couple years, I feel any game that Nolan is on the mound we have a chance to win no matter the caliber of our opponent. Aiden has shown that he is more than capable on the mound and will be looking to rely on him more as a starter than in the past. Last year he was a tough out at the plate, with a good understanding of the strike zone, and ability to make contact and foul off pitches. Both of our seniors are being called on more for their leadership and mentoring of our younger players that will be seeing their first varsity time this year. We will be looking to see more from Junior Harvey Walding this year as his role shifts from utility infielder to hopefully our number one option at catcher, he worked his way into the lineup his freshman year and has seen time all over the infield last year. Sophomore Gavin Pearson started every game last year in the outfield and looking to see him build off that experience this season. Another Sophomore, Carsyn Hahne, was used primarily as a late game pinch runner, but has shown he is capable of playing anywhere on the diamond and he should factor in somewhere in the lineup this year. Freshman Caeyn Howard really was a huge boost and surprise last year, coming in with confidence that you don’t see out of an 8th grader playing him in the middle infield, and as a late inning reliever. Another player that has the talent to play anywhere on the field we will see where he ends up spending most of his time defensively. Another Freshman returner is Trig Thomsen, who was used primarily for his advanced presence at the plate last year can play infield, outfield, or on the mound. Lastly, we will have Junior Darian Pesicka back this year. He missed last season with an injury after being a letterwinner his freshman year. I’m excited to get him back in the outfield and have a lefty arm on the mound for us.

Q: What will be the 2024 team’s strengths and what weaknesses are you still trying to shore up before the season begins?

CD: Our strength will definitely be the ability of our upperclassman and a successful year will require them to bring these younger players along to play at the level that is expected of a varsity player. I think on the mound we will be pretty solid, with Nolan and Aiden leading the charge, there are a lot of younger guys that I feel confident putting out there and throwing strikes. Excited to have Darian back on the mound, and excited to see an older and stronger Caeyn, Trig, and Carsyn out there too. Young 8th grader Tate Thomsen has the make up to be a solid pitcher along with hard throwing Sophomore Urijah Hamilton, he can sling it pretty good, just need to work on his strike percentage to get some action at the varsity level. The major thing we need to shore up is establishing what our lineup is going to look like, and that might be a work in progress as the season begins. Last year the lineup card was pretty well set and there wasn’t much change throughout the season, this year though with the number of players that can play multiple positions and the young guys that we are going to try to see what they can do at the varsity level I don’t know if we will have the same lineup twice all season. I also see that as a potential strength though, these guys know that there are open spots around the diamond, and I honestly think that anyone on our roster has a chance to be a varsity starter and that competition will definitely help us avoid any midseason complacency.

Q: How competitive does the SDHSBA Region IV look this year?

CD: This could be the toughest our region has been top to bottom in a long time. I really don’t see any gimme games this year like there may have been in past seasons. Obviously, you have the eastern teams that will be tough, Winner/Colome and Platte/Geddes are probably the preseason favorites along with Chamberlain and Gregory who all have returning All-State players. In the Black Hills area, you have Rapid City Christian who made the state tournament last year and the confidence and experience that goes with that. St. Thomas More has historically been one of the top programs in the state and they have some really good seniors back this year. I think Lead/Deadwood is going to be good this year, they were young last year, and have a couple of very talented upper classman. Bennett County was a young team that was tough to beat in the JR Legion Regionals in the summer, and Hot Springs only had 1 senior last year and will bring back an experienced team too. I know one thing for sure, none of these teams care that we’ve had 11 players graduate the last two years, that we will be a younger team this year, we will see everyone’s best again as teams are going to try to knock us off.

Q: Last question, what are a couple things you are excited to see from this team heading into the season opener?

CD: Just seeing how this first lineup is going to look, I honestly think I don’t know for sure what that lineup card will look like until I’m down in Hot Springs writing the lineup in the dugout. There are a lot of young guys who are hungry for this opportunity. I look at Sophomore Raif Parmeter, who was probably one of the most improved players last summer that is going to do all he can to work his way into the lineup to someone like Sophomore Tegan Fredricksen by far the most improved during the offseason he was like a totally different player during our winter hitting sessions. Freshman Graham Vanderboom is another player that has played just about everywhere in the field on our younger teams that is going to challenge for some varsity at bats.

I think the main takeaway from the interview is yes we will be a young team, but these young players will be coming up having a lot of prior success on our JR Legion Team, our VFW Teeners team, and even further back to their little league days. For me its exciting as this year is the transition from the young guys that we built the program around when I took over back in 2020 that have now graduated, to our next wave of young talent that starts in a program that is so much further ahead than we were four years ago.