When last there was high school baseball, Legacy was a team on the rise.
The Sabers have not been to the state tournament yet, but the trend appears to be headed in the right direction.
Eddie Streeter's team was fifth in the West Region in 2019, and had almost everybody coming back in 2020 before the season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With first pitch of the 2021 season later today, the Sabers bring back a big chunk of last season's projected core, in most cases bigger and stronger than they were before. In the preseason coaches' poll, Legacy was picked third behind only Minot and Dickinson.
"I got a lot of respect for the group of kids we have. Even after they found out last season was lost, they went to work by themselves to get ready for the summer," Streeter said. "The main thing is they stuck together. They looked out for each other. I'm really proud of them for the work they put in."
Several of the players went on to solid summer seasons. Cru Walker was a key performer for the Bismarck Govs both behind the plate and on the mound. Walker will serve as the Sabers' primary catcher.
He's got a promising stable of arms to work with. Among the most proven is fellow senior Ben Patton and juniors Isaac Pegors and Jackson Klipfel. Senior Brett Martin logged plenty of summer innings on the mound as well.
"This is probably the first year I feel like we have multiple guys that can win ballgames for us against the top teams," Streeter said. "There's a lot of upside with this crew. A lot of these kids have big-game experience as younger players as freshmen and sophomores. I think that's really going to help us."
The Sabers also have positional versatility. Walker will see most of his time squatting, although Patton and Miles Stiefel also are reliable catchers. Pegors will play middle infield, and left-handed hitting Jack Johnson will primarily be at first base. After that, Patton and the Klipfels -- Jackson and Carter -- can play anywhere. Mix in multi-sport performers like Martin and Keagen Woodbury, and Streeter has options.
"It'll mostly depend on who's pitching that day," Streeter said.
Many of the names are familiar. A large number of the players on the roster were involved in football or tennis in the fall, or basketball or hockey in the winter.
"I think it's huge when you have kids competing throughout the year," Streeter said. "You look at the basketball team this year and what coach (Jason) Horner did with those kids, it was fantastic. Those are big-game experiences and memories kids will be able to pull from."
The Sabers open the season today with a nonconference doubleheader against St. Mary's. First pitch, at the Sanford Sports Complex, is set for 4:30 p.m. It marks a busy stretch to open the season. Between today and April 17, the Sabers will play 10 games. It's much better than what happened last season.
"Missing last season was hard on kids. I think sports are an integral part of their lives, its so important for their mental health," Streeter said. "We have a lot of games coming up the next 10-12 days. It's busy, but it sure beats last year."
Streeter, who's been Legacy's head coach since 2017, said his team is embracing the high expectations, but it means little in the grand scheme.
"At the end of the day, I feel like we have a very talented team that can compete with anybody in the West. Going back to 2019, I think we showed we were close. We were facing a lot of No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers in counters," Streeter said. "But the fact is, we still haven't made the state tournament. Is that a goal for our team this season? Yes, it is. We're not going to shy away from that, but the fact is we can't do that today and we can't do it tomorrow. All we can do right now is continue to work hard every day to get better and that's what we're doing."
Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org