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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Semistate run even sweeter for North Putnam seniors

Friday, June 8, 2007

Senior Shelby Reed throws batting practice to a teammate during Friday's practice. NP coach Norm Fish said his seniors have helped him out a lot this season taking care of the small tasks and making his job easier.
BAINBRIDGE -- As North Putnam's baseball team went through its final practice Friday before traveling to Huntingburg for today's Southridge semistate, the atmosphere was extremely loose.

REO Speedwagon and Lynyrd Skynyrd played on the stereo. An air guitar could be spotted occasionally. It was a team comfortable in its own skin and confident going into a big game.

It's also a team with nothing up its sleeve.

"We're just going to play our game," said Cougar coach Norm Fish.

That looseness and confidence started this season with a group of four seniors who have taken the lead on and off the field.

"I think (their leadership) has been huge. From practice early in the season, it was helpful to turn things over to them," Fish said. "They've been right there, from start to finish."

The group -- Shelby Reed, Brayden Dahlstrom, Brian Blaydes and Jake Mullis -- have been playing together for various lengths of time. Dahlstrom and Reed started playing on the same team in fifth grade. Blaydes and Mullis came in high school and the core group has been together throughout.

"We've all played for four years. It's all built up," Dahlstrom said.

The previous two seasons had been a bit disappointing for the group. The Cougars would have an impressive regular season, before falling in the Cascade Sectional as the favorite. This year, things went differently, as the Cougars breezed through sectional, outscoring their opponents 31-0 over three games.

"We've had heartbreak the last couple of years and it's all come together this year," said Reed.

"We've been playing a while definitely long enough for the chemistry to be bonded," he added. "And it's about time it bonded."

"We just wanted to make sure we played our best every game (this season)," Mullis said. "Thay way, at least if we lost, we know we played our best."

Talking to the four, being a senior has various meanings. For Mullis, it means simply doing his job.

"I think we just come out and play our game," Mullis said. "I haven't felt any extra pressure. We all just have to go out and do our jobs."

Blaydes takes a slightly different approach, saying there is a need for seniors to lead the younger players.

"It's good for us to keep the leadership going," he said. "Not all the younger guys have had a lot of success, so it's important for us to take a leadership role both vocally and physically. We have to lead by example."

Dahlstrom sees both sides.

"We're definitely routine with it, playing our roles, but I think all of us seniors have had to step up and take the leadership roles," Dahlstrom said. He added each of them has done so in a different way.

Besides the leadership roles the four are just enjoying the run, especially in their final opportunity.

"It's a big accomplishment,"Reed said. "It makes it all much sweeter since it's our last go-round."

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Most kids don't get to experience this," Blaydes said. "Hopefully this year we can take it all the way to state. That's our goal. It's a fun opportunity."

Making regional was also an added bonus for the seniors, as they got to return to their home field one last time.

"We thought our senior night was our last time to play here, but we got to come back and play regional here," Dahstrom said. "It was pretty special to win that last game here."

Another factor Fish pointed to, for his whole team but especially a couple of seniors, is the experience the North Putnam football team had of going to semistate last fall. Nine of the 15 players on the Cougar roster were on that squad. He said his kids know what big games are all about.

"Brayden Dahlstrom and Jake Mullis know how exciting it is to play in a big game," Fish said. "They know what it's about, and they're excited. I think that's going to mean a lot."

The catch is, the Cougars would like to take things a couple of steps farther than they did in football, where they fell in semistate.

"They've been this far, and I think they're hungry to go a little farther," Fish said.

The Cougars take on Wapahani at 1:30 p.m. at League Stadium in Huntingburg. The championship game of the Southridge Semistate is at 8:30 p.m.

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