A Season With The Highlanders

BY JEREMY HOECK
jeremy.hoeck@yankton.net

The journey.

From the bottom of the standings into respectability. From years of frustration into one of hope. The hope of a turnaround. The hope that maybe, just maybe, this is the year.

Bat Man

Scotland manager Jason Vaith wraps tape around a new bat before Tuesday night’s amateur baseball practice in Scotland. (Jeremy Hoeck/P&D

That’s where the Scotland amateur baseball team finds itself this summer. And that’s exactly why the Highlanders make for a perfect focus for a summer series in the Press & Dakotan.

We’re calling it a ‘Season With The Highlanders.’

We will be taking you, the reader, behind the scenes with Scotland during the South Central League (SCL) season. I will be attending practices, hanging with the team during an occasional game and profiling the players. Put simply, you’ll see what it’s like for a small-town amateur baseball team.

And that one that has struggled the last few years.

There’s no ignoring the fact that the Highlanders – typically one of the youngest teams in the SCL – haven’t been competitive for some time now. Truth be told, they haven’t won a game against a SCL opponent since June 6, 2013. That’s a string of 54 consecutive losses (including district tournaments), heading into tonight’s (Thursday) home game with Crofton.

That’s why, in our opinion, Scotland is the best option for this series. It’s a team looking to turn a corner; looking to gain a foothold. It’s the kind of story you hear about far too often in the amateur baseball ranks; a small town struggling with numbers but still finding a way to keep a team. Scotland could’ve folded up shop and stopped fielding a team. Some towns have. But not Scotland.

Teams like Crofton and Wynot, for example, have historically found success in the SCL and at the South Dakota state tournament. Those are teams that have recently captured state championships. They are perennial contenders. But when you come into every season knowing you’ll likely be right there near the top of the standings every summer, there’s not much of a climb.

Scotland, on the other hand, has the steepest climb of anyone.

And we’ll be taking you inside that journey all summer.

Will this be the summer the Highlanders win a game or two? Come along for the ride and find out.

Follow @jhoeck on Twitter

More on Dawn Plitzuweit’s hiring at USD

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BY JEREMY HOECK
jeremy.hoeck@yankton.net

There were way too many tidbits from Monday’s announcement of Dawn Plitzuweit as the new women’s basketball coach at USD that I won’t be able to share in a story, but I wanted to post them here.

Here are some thoughts from both Plitzuweit and USD athletic director David Herbster.

Coach Dawn Plitzuweit

On unique challenge of entering a championship program: I think the biggest thing for our ladies to understand is that because you’re at the top of the mountain doesn’t mean you stay there. Now you begin. You go back down to the base and you start to climb again. Certainly, graduating five seniors that had a huge impact on this program will help them understand that it’s something we have to start working on immediately.

On coaching staff process: Bringing in the people that are the right fit for what we want to do moving forward is really important. To me, it’s more important to get it done right than to get it done fast, although getting it done fast and right would be the best case scenario.

On vision for the program: Right now, the biggest thing for us is to understand that all of the little things add up to success. Focusing on the process and letting the results take care of themselves is the first key.

On getting acclimated to recruiting in South Dakota: That’s certainly an exciting opportunity for us. Girls’ basketball in the state of South Dakota and the region is performing and winning at a very high level. And so, to get connected to those players and those coaches is a huge piece to this puzzle, and I’m looking forward to that.

On the style she brings: For us, what we’ve been able to do during the course of time is take a look at what makes the most sense with the personnel we have currently. What I’m really comfortable teaching is the motion offense. It’s a very versatile style of play, it’s something where in time where point guards are posting up and post players are shooting threes, and everywhere in between. And the personnel we have is close to that. What we might do is modify it for a little while. My first year at Northern Kentucky, we ran a patterned offense because that fit the young ladies we had. Year two, we started a motion offense that had a post player on one block and one block open for anyone else to post up. That changed over the course of time. A lot of it will depend on the young ladies we have and how comfortable they are with it.

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Athletic director David Herbster

On how Plitzuweit entered USD’s radar: We called her. When you’re out there, you’re talking to other people, you’re going through the names, she was one of those that came up. When she got the call from us, it wasn’t somethings he was looking for, it was something we presented to her. Like many of them, it takes a little bit of time. Real quickly, we were able to have a great conversation with her on the phone, and pretty soon you’re meeting in person, and then pretty soon she’s agreeing to come here. The whole thing happened pretty fast.

On multi-year contract availability: Certainly in the conversations we have, if you don’t have multi-year contracts, if you don’t have the facilities, if you don’t have the ability to provide the resources, this is not that attractive of a job, even if you’ve won the WNIT. If she’s (Plitzuweit) going to leave some place where she has a multi-year contract and come to place where there aren’t multi-year contracts, that’s a big red flag for anybody.

On role new arena played in search: The arena is a huge factor, but as much as anything, so is the facilities on campus. What we’ve found over the last several years, our facilities and what we have planned are really nice, but this campus is beautiful.

Dawn Plitzuweit Timeline

 

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Dawn Plitzuweit

Prior to arriving at the University of South Dakota, Dawn Plitzuweit has served as an assistant head coach or a head coach at six different schools.

In nine seasons as a head coach, she boasts a 188-93 record (.669 winning percentage) and has made a post-season appearance in eight of those years.

Northern Kentucky: Head coach

2015-16: 19-14, WBI First Round

2014-15: 19-14, WBI First Round

2013-14: 18-13, WBI Second Round

2012-13: 15-13, WBI First Round

RECORD: 71-54 (.568)

Michigan: Associate head coach

2011-12: 20-12, NCAA First Round

2010-11: 17-13, WNIT First Round

2009-10: 21-14, WNIT Semifinals

2008-09: 10-20

2007-08: 19-14, WNIT Quarterfinals

RECORD: 87-73 (.544)

Grand Valley State: Head coach

2006-07: 21-8, NCAA DII Regional

2005-06: 33-3, NCAA DII Champions

2004-05: 28-6, NCAA DII Elite Eight

2003-04: 11-15

2002-03: 24-7, NCAA DII Regional

RECORD:  117-39 (.750)

Green Bay: Assistant coach/recruiting coordinator

2001-02: 24-7, NCAA First Round

2000-01: 22-9, WNIT First Round

1999-00: 21-9, NCAA First Round

1998-99: 19-10, NCAA First Round

RECORD:  86-35 (.711)

Wisconsin: Assistant coach

1997-98: 21-10, NCAA First Round

RECORD: 21-10 (.677)

Michigan Tech: Assistant coach

1996-97: 21-9, NCAA DII Regional

1995-96: 18-11

RECORD:  39-20 (.661)