LAUREL — The State A legion baseball tournament gets underway early Wednesday morning in Belgrade. One of the favorites, though, is right in the backyard of Billings, as the Laurel Dodgers enter fresh off an Eastern A district title.
“One of our goals was to win the district title, and we accomplished that, and I do hope that that carries us into our next game. We earned the right to be the one seed out of the East and hopefully we carry that momentum forward," said head coach Doug Studiner.
The Dodgers have a deep lineup that’s been anchored by first baseman Richie Cortese, who is hitting .598 this season. It’s no surprise he’s lighting it up after hitting .317 as a freshman at Dickinson State.
“It’s just kind of like recognizing spin off the hand, fat wrist, skinny wrist type stuff. Just having that kind of slow down when I came back this year and has helped me out quite a bit and reinforced mechanics in my swing, getting on plane sooner," Cortese said of the benefit of playing collegiately.
Studiner rightfully gives credit to Cortese for his approach at the dish, but he also pointed out that it’s the guys surrounding Cortese in the lineup offering protection that have contributed to his massive season.
“The young man has more extra-base hits than he does singles, so with Richie hitting in the middle of the lineup, a lot of teams will pitch around him and walk him," Studiner said. "The other day in the championship game they did that with Richie, and Jace (Buchanan) made them pay with a 3-run home run.”
Baseball is a superstitious game, even for one of the best hitters in the state.
“I like listening to Future when I take BP. It’s just kind of like my thing. I started doing it in college and had a really good couple games, so I’ve been doing it ever since I came back," Cortese said.
Cortese and the Dodgers hope to keep the sticks hot this weekend in pursuit of a state title.