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Whitefish fields deep roster for second baseball season

by BRANDON HANSEN For the Pilot
| March 20, 2024 12:00 AM

Whitefish is coming off an inaugural baseball season that saw the Bulldogs make it to the Montana State Championship Game.

"We graduated a large senior class, but we replaced that with some really solid age groups coming up," Whitefish Head Coach Kyler Blades said. "I don't think we will take a step back. Last year, we had a lot of guys who were good athletes who hadn't played baseball in a few years. We're excited to get back at it with more experience this year."

Whitefish's strength in 2024 should be hitting. Blades runs an indoor baseball facility in the Flathead Valley, so players can work on their craft no matter the weather.

This year, Whitefish's impact players will be seniors Brady Howke and Michael Miller, and juniors Christian Schwaderer and Ryan Conklin.

While Whitefish was pretty banged up during its first two games of the year in Polson, Blades said that when the Bulldogs get healthy, they should be able to compete in pitching against any team in the state.

"We have a great pitching coach in Forest Covelt, a former college pitcher," Blades said. "He calls all our pitches, and while we don't have a bunch of guys who can throw 90 yet, I think strategically, it's going to be a really solid pitching team."

Howke and Miller took the mound over the weekend, and Blades said they were encouraged by what they saw from them, as well as the pitching of Reyd Hobart.

Whitefish had not been outdoors before their first game, so their priorities during practice were getting their arms in shape and working on their batting. While there are things to clean up after the first weekend, that is kind of expected in snowy Montana, where the spring needs a little time to get warmed up.

"Every year in high school baseball is its own data point, and teams are going to be different from the previous year," Blades said. "Last year, I think we had some high-end top athletic talent, and this year, I think we have a roster that is deep of good baseball players."

The West Conference has added Bigfork to its ranks. Ronan also has a baseball team now. Eureka and Columbia Falls should also serve as the north of Flathead Lake competition.

Whitefish falls to Polson and Belgrade

Whitefish played a rematch of last spring's state championship game on Friday, March 15, in Polson for West Conference baseball action. 

Polson, however, had one big third inning, which proved to be the difference in a 15-8 victory.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the top of the third, but Polson scored 10 runs in the bottom of the third. While Whitefish would score five more runs, the Pirates would generally answer in the bottom of the frame and keep the Bulldogs at bay.

Whitefish finished with 12 hits, including three hits from Tait Orme and multi-hit games from Ryan Conklin, Brady Howke and CJ Thew.

The Bulldogs then played Belgrade, the team that finished third in last year's state tournament, but they fell 15-1 on Saturday, March 16. Both teams had roughly a handful of hits, but Whitefish also committed five errors in the game and walked nine.  

Orme had multiple hits in the game and drove in Whitefish's lone run.  

At Polson

POLSON 15, WHITEFISH 8

W-Fish - 012 - 212 - 0 - 8 - 12 - 2

Polson - 01(10) - 112 - x - 15 - 13 - 3

WHITEFISH PITCHING - M Miller, R Conklin (3), T Piatowski (3), Reyd Hobart (6) and Avery Caton

 WHITEFISH HITTING - R Conklin 2-5, B Howke 2-3, C Schwaderer 1-5, T Orme 3-4, C Eisenbarth 0-3, M Miller, 1-2, L Dalen 0-1, C Thew 2-3, A Caton 0-4, D Queen 0-1, T Piatowski 0-1, R Hobart 1-2

2B: C Schwaderer, C Thew, M Miller, T Orme