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Zimmerman adds even more punch to talented Park River baseball team

Will Zimmerman was on Park River teams that played in the last two North Dakota Class B American Legion baseball tournaments. He was a senior on the Park River/Fordville-Lankin team that played in the 2016 Class B state high school baseball tourn...

After a line drive to the outfield and a stolen base attempt Park River's Will Zimmerman, bottom, had to rush back to second base just before the force out by Manitoba Red Sox's Declaw Erickson during a matchup at Kraft Field in Grand Forks on Thursday June 15, 2017. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)
After a line drive to the outfield and a stolen base attempt Park River's Will Zimmerman, bottom, had to rush back to second base just before the force out by Manitoba Red Sox's Declaw Erickson during a matchup at Kraft Field in Grand Forks on Thursday June 15, 2017. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)

Will Zimmerman was on Park River teams that played in the last two North Dakota Class B American Legion baseball tournaments. He was a senior on the Park River/Fordville-Lankin team that played in the 2016 Class B state high school baseball tournament.

All three of those teams made the final four in their respective tournaments, finishing as high as second.

First place came this spring-with Zimmerman in the stands, fresh off his freshman year in college and watching Park River/Fordville-Lankin win the Class B state tournament.

"I was sitting in the stands watching, wishing I was out there playing,'' Zimmerman said. "It was bittersweet. It was great for the guys. I was happy for them. But I would have killed to have been out there with them.''

Zimmerman is back for his final year of Legion eligibility, a catalyst in the leadoff spot for the undefeated Pirates Legion team. Park River improved to 12-0 on Friday with a pair of wins in pool play at the annual Montgomery Memorial tournament.

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"Will is all over the field for us,'' Park River coach Brady Laxdal said. "He's a really good shortstop. And he's on base all the time. He's a good, disciplined hitter and he's a monster on the basepaths, running all the time. Very rarely does he get thrown out.''

Zimmerman is hitting .567 and averaging a steal a game. He also contributes on the mound, with two saves in three appearances and all nine outs he's registered coming by strikeouts.

That comes after he started at second base and hit .330 for Indian Hills Community College, an Iowa-based team that came one win shy of qualifying for the Division I junior college world series.

"I exceeded my own expectations,'' Zimmerman said of his freshman season. "It was such a grind just to get a spot on the team. There were so many kids. But it worked out.''

Zimmerman and Laxdal both say the 5-foot-8, 160-pound shortstop is a better player than a year ago. But the switch from college to Legion ball hasn't come without adjustments.

"I've been trying to adjust to the pitching,'' said Zimmerman, who was 5-for-6 in Friday's two games. "We were seeing 85, 90 (miles per hour) pitchers consistently in college. Now we see maybe 65-70. I'm jumping out in front of everything. But it's coming around.

"And the fences are shorter. You can't try to hit the ball out of every park. Everybody wants to do that. It's a tough urge to fight.''

With the exception of Zimmerman and Adam Swanson, a pitcher/outfielder who stays with relatives in Park River during the summer, Park River's lineup is basically the same as the one that won the prep state title this spring.

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"Hopefully, we can do it in Legion ball this year,'' Zimmerman said.

Related Topics: PREP SPORTSBASEBALL
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