Canistota/Freeman/Marion Sticks baseball program debuts varsity team with aim to 'keep building'
“We finally have a (varsity) team, so that’s exciting,” said coach Dustin Tschetter. “We’re extremely young, but it’s exciting to see these kids out here competing and having fun.”
CANISTOTA, S.D. — What started in 2015 as an effort to revive teener baseball in a few closely linked communities near the U.S. Highway 81 corridor recently reached new heights.
Now eight seasons on from competing as an 8-and-under outfit, the Canistota/Freeman/Marion Sticks are fielding a varsity baseball team for the first time this spring, marking another milestone in the program’s steady rise under the guidance of coaches Brad Miller and Dustin Tschetter.
“We just got some kids together to play a couple of tournaments a summer with the idea of eventually having a teener team,” Miller said, recalling the Sticks’ humble beginnings. “Success leads to more kids wanting to play, so we’ve gradually added a few more kids who’ve wanted to go out. That’s how we started, and we’ve just tried to keep building from there.”
“We finally have a (varsity) team, so that’s exciting,” Tschetter added. “We’re going to take our lumps this year, don’t get me wrong. We’re extremely young, but it’s exciting to see these kids out here competing and having fun.”
The build has been a steady one for the program started by Miller and Tschetter, who have ball-playing sons of the same age that spurred the Sticks’ formation.
As the younger Millers and Tschetters grew up, the fathers continued to coach, adding more youth teams as interest continued to expand. Along the way, CFM has claimed multiple VFW state baseball titles.
In 2021, Freeman hosted the 14-and-under state youth baseball championships, using some of the generated funds to kick start efforts to form a high school team. Last season, with a roster comprised entirely of players in their sophomore year or younger, the Sticks fielded a junior-varsity program for the first time.
As Miller and Tschetter explained, the high school team's main challenge is with numbers, due at least in part to overlapping seasons with track and field.
This spring, with exactly nine high school-aged players — four juniors, a sophomore and four freshmen — a varsity team was made possible while also maintaining a JV team made up of approximately a dozen seventh and eighth graders. CFM is a member of Class B Region 1, which features other Mitchell-area squads such as Parkston/Ethan/Tripp, Bon Homme/Avon, Wagner/Lake Andes and Scotland/Menno.
In an early highlight for the burgeoning club, CFM defeated Vermillion 2-0 on April 23, allowing just two hits and not committing an error in what Miller described as an “excellent” game for the club. As of April 26, the Sticks own a 2-2 record, with the other win coming in a 15-4 final against Beresford/Alcester-Hudson.
“We’re still extremely young, but we have a lot of good ballplayers here and they’re getting better each and every game they’re out there,” Miller said. “We’re just trying to build that momentum for the program.”
During the summer, there are plans for Sticks teams in five age divisions — 16U, 14U, 12U, 10U and 8U — to compete for more VFW baseball hardware and continue to grow the future of the program.
“I’ve got an 8-year-old yet, so I’ve got a long way to go,” Tschetter said with a chuckle. “We’re still building. We’re going to have five Sticks teams this year going all the way down to 8U, so we’ve got kids coming up.”
“Hopefully, this sets up that kids see we have a team,” Miller added. “I grew up in Canova and baseball was our life around there, so seeing the excitement of the kids being able to play is fantastic. It’s nice to try and get this built back up.”