Blue Jays returning three with experience, getting to know the rest

Mar. 28—JAMESTOWN — So far for Jack Bowman, there have been very few surprises during the first week of the 2024 NDHSAA baseball season.

"It's about exactly what I expected," said Bowman, head coach of the Jamestown High School baseball team. "We are going to be very young. The kids aren't used to my expectations and a lot of these kids haven't been around me too much. I am still learning names honestly.

"It's good — there is progress being made but it's still week one," he said.

Bowman and the Blue Jays began practices on March 18. The squad will open the season on April 9 at Bismarck Century. The doubleheader is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m.

"I think we have high potential," Blue Jay senior Tyson Jorissen said. "Many people may not think of us as a high contender for the WDA championship because of all the talent and seniors we lost last year and having to have a lot of young underclassmen come up and fill the shoes will be tough but it will be no surprise if you see the Blue Jays playing well come tourney time."

The Blue Jays wound up placing fourth at last year's Class A State Baseball Tournament. The squad finished the year at 18-6 overall and wound up earning the program's first-ever regular-season title. The Jays were the No. 1 seed entering the West Region Tournament.

Bowman lost 10 seniors to graduation.

"It wasn't just seniors we lost but seniors who had started for me for essentially three years," Bowman said. "Last year in practice, we were focusing less on fundamentals and more on just staying sharp within our fundamentals. This year, it's about training the fundamentals before we can move forward.

"The kids are coming along," he said. "We've got good kids. They are not experienced but they have some ability and so it's just a matter of getting as much of that ability out of them that we can."

In addition to Jorissen who acted as a utility infielder for the Jays and led the WDA in batting averages last season, the Jays will also welcome back third- and second-year varsity team members Thomas Newman and Adam Sortland.

"Adam was also a utility infielder and a pitcher last year," Bowman said. "He got hurt towards the end of the season so he didn't get to pitch all that much but when he did he was very effective. I expect him to help us again on the mound."

Newman will also be called upon to shut down the Jays opponents' bats.

"He had the third-most innings of our staff last year," Bowman said of Newman. "He'll be our ace this year for sure. He just has the stuff to be the No. 1 guy."

After those three — it's wide open for the Jays. The Jays were picked eighth in the WDA preseason coaches' poll.

"I told them at our very first meeting that I don't care what grade they are in — if they can play, they can play," Bowman said. "I am not beholden to putting the kid on the roster because they are a senior or saying to a freshman that they don't have a chance. That's not the way I do things."

In addition to his crowd of varsity newbies, Bowman has also had to get Tim Ranum and Sam Joseph used to how he coaches.

Bowman's former assistant coach Michael Smith stepped away from the high school program to take on a more significant role with the JAYBAL program. Ranum will take over Smith's spot as Bowman's assistant coach. Joseph, the head coach of the Post 14 American Legion squad, will oversee the JV team.

"We all have our different styles and do things a little bit differently so it's just a matter of trying to meld things for the benefit of the kids," Bowman said. "We all want to speak the same language so we are starting with the basics and trying to develop those fundamentals before we get into more concepts.

"There have been several times where I've come home from practice and told my wife that we are going to be just fine with these coaches," he said. "I am really excited about these two."

It may be a different-looking squad for the Blue Jays this season, but the mentality — from both the coaches and athletes — is still the same.

"I'll have to step up and take the leadership role the seniors had last year," Jorissen said. "They left with having a pretty accomplishing season and I plan on keeping that a trend in Blue Jay baseball. I will help lead the team to having success and playing the game we know we can play."