After hanging around the .500 mark for a couple of weeks, the Bismarck Governors have declared they're much more than a break-even baseball team.
With six straight victories and 10 wins in their last 11 starts, the Governors entered their post-Independence Day break with a 16-8 record. Not coincidentally, Bismarck has scored eight runs or more in six of its last 10 starts.
And Mike Skytland, head coach of the American Legion baseball team, says it's not coincidental, either, that the hot streak started in Nebraska.
In late June the Governors played five games in four days at the College World Series Legion baseball tournament at Omaha. The Governors went 3-2 in Omaha, including victories in their final two games.
More important than the wins, however, was the team-building effect that makes the annual trip to Nebraska so valuable.
"That brings the kids together. ... They get to know each other, and they get to know each other playing really tough competition," Skytland observed. "You're in a situation where all you have is your team. ... That's a good team-building experience."
With the College World Series going on in Omaha simultaneously with the Legion tournament, Skytland said his players were thoroughly steeped in baseball.
"They got to be around baseball at the highest level. ... It was baseball everywhere. They came together as a baseball team by being in that baseball atmosphere," he noted.
Cade Feeney, who will be a junior at Century, and Ian McDonald, who will be a sophomore at Bismarck State College, have led the pitching staff. Feeney, a right-hander, is 5-0 and McDonald, a lefty, stands 4-1.
McDonald's only loss was a 3-1 setback against Mustang, Okla., at Omaha.
Skytland said recent developments indicate his team is making progress.
"The last couple of weeks we've had some really good at-bats, ... our pitch selection is better ... and we've also just had some timely hitting, and that can come and go," he said.
Skytland said the coaching staff is well into the sifting and sorting process.
"It seems like the players are becoming fore comfortable in their roles. ... All that seemed to be coming together as that last week unfolded," he said.
The Governors took two from Mandan on July 3-4. They return to action on Tuesday, playing host to Williston in a 5:30 p.m. doubleheader. Those games won't count in the statewide AA standings.
On Wednesday the Governors return to league play as Fargo Post 400 visits Municipal Ballpark for a 5:30 twin bill.
Century won the state Class A high school baseball championship last spring, and there's an obvious Century influence on the Governors of 2018. Seven players are either CHS students or 2018 Century graduates. Three more are CHS graduates who are coming off their first year of college baseball.
Bismarck, Legacy and Shiloh are represented by one player each, and a St. Mary's graduate who is attending BSC completes the roster.
Skytland said when he and his assistant coaches are scouting players during the high school season they concentrate on position-specific skills rather than school affiliation. He said he, Blaine Steiner and Kevin Walsh see a catcher from Bismarck, a middle infielder from Bismarck or a pitcher from Bismarck. The school is immaterial.
"We kind of judge the kids individually. ... A lot of the Century kids did have really good (high school) seasons. ... When we were doing our numbers we were surprised at how many (players) were from one school," Skytland said. "We try to just look at them as Bismarck kids. ... In doing that we get a clearer picture of how they fit into their positions."
Skytland, in his 15th season as Governors head coach, said he's been at it long enough to recognize the changing influence the schools have on the Legion baseball program.
"What I find is that it's cyclical. ... A lot of these kids were on all-star teams when they were younger, so we knew this (CHS influx) was going to be the case," the coach observed. "The all-star teams the last couple of years and the Babe Ruth teams had similar ratios."