June 1 was the day all Nebraska baseball teams were looking forward to. After months of no official practices because of the coronavirus pandemic, teams could finally get on the diamond and start practicing for the summer baseball season.
The Gering senior and junior players were out in full force at Oregon Trail Park early Monday getting in their first workouts of the year as a unit. Gering coach Rick Kinnaman said he is thrilled to be on the diamond once again.
“I am really excited to be out here. It feels right,” Kinnaman said. “I feel like I am miles behind and I have to make up everything and I know I won’t be able to do that in a short amount of time. There is a little pressure to get everything caught up, but it feels really good to be doing it again.”
While Wyoming baseball teams have been playing for the past 10 days, the Nebraska teams had a June 1 start date for practice with first games not allowed to start until June 18. Kinnaman said his team will be somewhat ready when they open the season, but they might not be in 100 percent baseball shape.
“They will be ready for a game and getting away from the routine of a practice because 17 days is actually quite a few in a row to practice and keep a high attention span,” Kinnaman said. “They will be ready for the game, I don’t if field-wise we will be ready.”
Gering opens the season on June 18 when they host Ogallala in a junior, senior doubleheader followed by a senior doubleheader with North Platte at Oregon Trail Park.
When the Gering Platte Valley Companies senior team steps onto the diamond for its first game June 18, they will have a solid lineup with plenty of depth returning.
“We could be OK,” Kinnaman said. “We don’t have a lot of numbers again, but we have most everybody back. We have quite a few players that can throw for us so that gives us some depth even with our limited numbers. We will be OK.”
Gering returns a lot from last year’s 24-17-1 team. Returning to the seniors from last year include Anthony Walker, Quinton Janecek, Brady Radzymski, Adreick Conn, Jack Franklin, Ryley Hoke, Jarrod Beamon, Blake Green, Riley Gaudreault, and Riley Schanaman.
The senior team will have a new addition to the team this year in Donte Bellairs, who played for the Morrill team a couple summers ago.
The coaching staff is still intact as well. Serving as Kinnaman’s assistants are Danny O’Boyle, Grant Rimington, and Zach Ostergard.
A lot of those senior returners are pitchers to provide a lot of strength on the mound. Plus, the seniors know what the philosophy of practices and games are.
“They know how things are structured in our practices and games and that there will be no element of surprise,” Kinnaman said. “They understand that and that helps quite a bit. They know how things are ran. They have to do some disciplined things which they haven’t had to do for the last two or three months.”
The baseball teams can play through July 31 but this year’s season will be different with no Area or State Legion tournaments. Kinnaman said this year’s Gering squad had a good chance to make a run for a state tournament berth.
“I am really disappointed [with no area or state tournaments] because I thought if things worked out right, we would have a pretty good shot at it again,” Kinnaman said. “Alliance would be in the way, but I was really looking forward to that.”
But, Gering still has a chance to play for something as the area teams are planning on having a Panhandle end of the season tournament for both the junior and senior teams. Details are still being finalized. That gives the teams at least something to play for.
“We have a little bit to play for,” Kinnaman said. “We have a lot to play for. We have a lot people that care about this program and watch what we do. There are a lot of people excited and not just us.”