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Central Cass baseball, softball working to hang more banners

Jun. 1—JAMESTOWN — The Central Cass baseball and softball programs have been powerhouses in the state for years, and that is no different this year.

Central Cass is the only school with teams participating in the 2024 Class B Baseball and Softball State tournaments.

"I think one of the things I attribute our success to is we've got a great support system up at the school," Squirrels softball head coach Scott Kost said. "Our community is very supportive of both the baseball team and the softball team. The school and the administration,... they're all very very supportive of what we're trying to do, not only build competitive teams but teach these kids life lessons, making sure they're walking away from Central Cass with the understanding of what it means to put the hard work in and what it means to be a good teammate. I'd say there's an ecosystem that is helping to make these teams successful."

This year is the 11th time and the fourth consecutive year that the baseball team has made it to the state tournament. This is also the 11th time that the Squirrels softball team has made it to the final tournament. The programs have combined for nine state titles.

"I think it's a winning attitude," Squirrels baseball head coach Dustin Maasjo said. "I feel like the softball team has had quite a bit of success over the last 10 years and the work that they've put in, the work that we've put in, the girls have been playing for a long time, our boys have been playing for a long time. It's an attitude of, 'Hey we want to be one of the best teams.' I think both groups have that."

The No. 2-seed Squirrels baseball team opened their tournament with a 3-1 win against Washburn/Wilton/Center-Stanton. The baseball team headed into the tournament with an 18-1 record.

During their campaign, Maasjo said his team has kept a positive attitude with the help of their 10 seniors. Although the team is losing 10 players after this year, Maasjo said he is not looking at this as a final hurrah but instead feels confident that the team can reload with the help of the junior varsity team.

"I don't think this is the end," Maasjo said. "I feel like we have a good group coming up. We only have two juniors that start, there's three sophomores on the team, one freshman, really good group of kids coming up from the freshman, sophomore group."

The No. 2-seed Squirrels softball team opened their tournament with a 13-2 win against Renville County. The Squirrels have a 16-5 overall record as of May 30.

Kost said he expects this state tournament to be competitive.

"We always go into these tournaments expecting to compete for a championship," Kost said. "We know there's a long road to go here."

Kost said his team's best skills this year are pitching and defense.

Despite winning four of the last five state tournaments heading into this state tournament, Kost said his team does not feel pressure to win another one. Kost said it helps that his team has previous experience playing in a state tournament.

"I think it's been a little bit easier for this team to find its own identity and the only thing they can do right now is start a streak," Kost said. "They're not gonna end a streak. So I actually think the pressure is on some of the teams that have more experience than we do than on us."

Last season, the Squirrels softball team missed the state tournament for the first time in program history. Kost said the fact that his team missed the tournament last year is serving as fuel for his team this year.

"They're very hungry," Kost said. "... I like telling this story about last year when we lost out in the region tournament and our season was over the very next day the girls wanted to practice. They wanted to practice to start getting ready for this year. So this started about 365 days ago that the girls were working to get back to the state tournament. So I'd characterize them as extremely hungry."

In this campaign, Kost said his team's unsung heroes are Olivia Haugen and Bradey Bosse. During her sophomore season, Haugen is hitting .299 with one home run, 22 RBIs and six stolen bases. Bosse is hitting .417 with six doubles and 23 RBIs.

Maasjo did not have to think about who his team's most underrated player is, Kamren Baarstad. This season, Baarstad is hitting .324 with two doubles and eight RBIs.

"He started off a little slow this year offensively and defensively," Maasjo said. "He's really picked it up. He had a fantastic diving catch in the second game of the region tournament that saved one or possibly two runs. He came through with a base hit in the championship game that tied it up at two, had two strikes, runner on base, he comes through with a clutch base hit. I'd say he's one of our unsung guys that you don't hear a lot about."

Maasjo said the baseball team is also trying to prove a point after finishing fourth in the state tournament last year.

Once the state tournament ends, Maasjo's time coaching his sons will come to an end with the graduation of Carter Maasjo. Maasjo's older son, Brendan, graduated in 2022.

"I'm harder on them, I know I am," Maasjo said. "But I know they can handle it. I know what they need at that time. Growing up with most of these kids, having the 10 seniors, most of them have been playing Casselton or Central Cass baseball for many many years, knowing all of them and what they need, where I can be a little harder and where I can back off just a little bit and be more positive. When I go out to Carter, Carter's like a bulldog on the mound, he doesn't want to come out. He can get very emotional, 'don't take me out,' type thing. It's been absolutely fantastic to coach both boys. I will definitely miss it next year."

This season, Kost and his team are attempting to win their seventh state title in program history.

"It would mean a lot," Kost said. "I think the most is, these kids have put a ton of work in ... they started working 365 days ago, so to see the hard work being rewarded, that would be very very meaningful."