Seeding position is important. Regional championships are cool. Winning streaks are nice.
However, none of those things is the focus of the Century High School baseball team as the regular season winds down.
When the Patriots visit Dickinson for a doubleheader tonight and play host to Mandan for a non-counter on Thursday, the primary concern will be execution. Namely, the execution that's given CHS a 21-3 record and a 14-game winning streak.
With West Region teams embarking on the final week of regular season play, the last thing they want to do is lay an egg with tournament time beckoning.
"Going into the West Region tournament it would be good to keep our momentum going," said Skyler Riedinger, a junior right-hander who is 5-0 on the mound for the Patriots.
Williston sits atop the region with a 12-2 mark, the last two of those victories coming at the expense of Dickinson, previously undefeated in regional play. The Coyotes won 3-1 and 12-2 on Friday at Williston.
Dickinson, 10-2 going into Monday night's twin bill with Bismarck, is in second place. Century is a close third at 13-3.
Williston will play four regional games this week, two with St. Mary's and two with Bismarck. Monday's games with Bismarck and tonight's double dip with Century conclude Dickinson's regional schedule. Tonight's games at Dickinson fulfill Century's regional commitment.
"If we beat Dickinson we get the No. 2 seed for sure. If Williston loses and we win, we could get the No. 1 seed," Riedinger observed.
Century won its first state baseball championship last spring, but graduation gnawed away at head coach Kent Schweigert's starting lineup, particularly at key positions.
Nontheless Riedinger, primarily a relief pitcher last spring as a sophomore, saw a lot of positives as he looked ahead to this season.
"We knew there were good teams in the West, and we knew we had to perform well to beat them," Riedinger said.
"I was confident in our guys. I knew we had a lot of guys who could play," Riedinger continued. "I feel with the guys we've got we can do a lot of damage."
Damage, indeed. Century's offense has generated 201 runs in 24 games, an average of more than eight tallies per outing.
The Patriots are at least as good at preventing runs as scoring them. CHS hurlers have permitted just 42 runs, fewer than two per game. They've logged nine shutouts.
Six CHS pitchers have garnered victories this spring, paced by juniors Connor Hanson and Riedinger, both 5-0. Senior Stevie Kraljic is 5-1 and junior Cade Feeney stands 3-0.
Behind the big four wait junior Connor Weikum, 2-1, senior Paydin Slette, 1-0, and senior Mason Leingang, 0-1.
Although he was used primarily as a closer last season, Riedinger said moving into the rotation this year went smoothly.
"Most of the time growing up I was a starter," he noted.
Last year Riedinger was used mostly as a pitcher. This season he's played third base when he's not on the mound, with a little shortstop thrown in.
"I love playing in the field when I'm not pitching," he said.
The extended playing time seems to agree with him. He said he's hitting in the mid-.300s as a full-time starter.
Schweigert said he isn't concerned with the scoreboard or the standings as much as coming out of this week with a team that's tournament-ready.
"The biggest thing is keeping the momentum going and executing well. ... When it comes to tournament time you want to be playing well and have a hop in your step," he said.
"We've been playing good baseball the last couple of weeks. ... We're playing with a lot more confidence than we were at the beginning of the year," he added. "We had some new guys who had to work their way in ... and to understand what they need to do to be successful at the varsity level."
Schweigert was counting on a solid pitching rotation this season, and he hasn't been disappointed.
"The pitching has been what we expected. We thought we'd have a number of arms we could go with. ... Kraljic has taken a big step ahead for us, and that's been huge," he said.
The three-day regional and state tournaments may require additional depth, and Schweigert believes Leingang, Weikum and Slette can fill that need nicely.
"We're going to need those guys to give us some innings. And (Treyton) Mattern gave us some innings last week," Schweigert noted.
Schweigert said he isn't as as excited about the 14-game winning streak as he is about what it represents.
"Defensively we've gotten better. We had to replace some guys in the outfield and our guys have gotten more comfortable out there. That's been huge," he observed. "The other thing is we've had better approaches at bat, and we're much better as situational hitting. ... We've had a plan going up there. We've really seen that develop the last couple of weeks."
Although it may seem strange to be sitting in third place with a 13-3 regional record, Schweigert said Williston and Dickinson haven't gotten to where they are by hocus-pocus.
"Williston is not a surprise. They're a good team. Their lineup, one-through-nine is tough. ... They've become a good defensive team. They are a very quality baseball team," Schweigert said.
"And Dickinson will be a good measuring stick to see where we're at," he added.