It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the Bismarck Larks. A recent three-game losing streak, plus the loss of three key players hasn’t helped.
But manager Sen Repay insists the Larks remain upbeat as they close in on the end of the first half of the Northwoods League season.
“We’re going through a nuts stretch but the guys aren’t concerned,” Repay said. “They’re in good spirits.”
The Larks have 12 games remaining in the first half – it ends after games on July 16 - after Monday’s series opener against Willmar. They entered that game eight games behind Waterloo and St. Cloud, which share the top spot in the North Division.
The first half winners in each division qualify for the playoffs. The second-half winners will also qualify, so even if the Larks don’t make up all the ground, they still can reach the playoffs.
Repay said the Larks are positioned for a strong second half, but they are looking no further than today’s 1:05 p.m. game against the Stingers.
Since last Wednesday, they have played a night game, driven home for two games against Duluth, driven to Mankato for two games and driven home for two games against Willmar. They will leave after the July 4 game for two games at Duluth and come home again for two against Thunder Bay and two against St. Cloud.
“We’re not out of the first half,” Repay said. “But we are built to be a second-half team. The second half is where you see some kids drop off to go home and rest up for their college season. I’m not going to have that issue with our roster. These kids are committed.”
Repay doesn’t expect a whole lot of transition in the roster from here on out unless it’s necessary. Three replacements are necessary.
The biggest hole will be that left by starting pitcher Micah Beyer, who was 3-0 with an 0.75 ERA. He set the team record for strikeouts in a game with 14 in his only home start. He left to take an accounting internship.
Infielder Mason Pierzchalski suffered a back injury that isn’t getting better and reliever Trenton Stoltz suffered an ankle injury that is getting worse, Repay said.
If Pierzchalski isn’t better by the weekend, he will be shut down for the season. He was hitting .226 with a homer and nine RBIs.
Stoltz is 0-1 in eight appearances, with 13 strikeouts in 14 innings.
The Larks went into Friday’s game 15-19. “We’ve played very, very well. Of our 19 losses, eight have been by one or two runs. If we’re in games like that, I’m happy.”
Repay said the schedule after the league’s all-star break July 17-19 favors Bismarck.
“The second-half travel becomes a lot easier,” Repay said. “We’re home a lot more. We’re a good team at home and we are home a lot in the second half.”
The Larks play eight of their last 11 games at home and don’t have any two-game homestands. “We play the final four games at home. That’s huge,” Repay said.