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Tom Mix, Published May 29 2013

Packers are back as a top seed at ND Class A state baseball

WEST FARGO – When the varsity baseball season began two months ago, West Fargo head coach Brett Peterson knew his Packers squad would have a different look to it.

It comes with the territory when a team loses 11 seniors. That senior class was loaded with players that had multiple years of varsity experience and capped their careers with a state championship last spring.

To someone on the outside, it appeared the 2013 Packers would be in for a challenge to replace all of those talented departures, like the all-state duo of shortstop/pitcher Andy Young and catcher Tucker Bucholz.

West Fargo started the season ranked No. 4 in the East Region coach’s poll, but played above expectations the entire year.

The Packers are 20-3 and, like last season, are the East Region’s No. 1-seeded team heading into today’s North Dakota Class A state tournament at Jack Brown Stadium in Jamestown, N.D. West Fargo plays West Region No. 4-seeded Jamestown at approximately

7 p.m. today in the quarterfinals.

“We knew coming into this season there would be a lot of new faces after losing the senior class that we had last year, but we also knew we weren’t likely to take a gigantic step back either,” Peterson said.

The cupboards were not completely left empty. Returning seniors Kory Wolden, Ben Huber, Luke Johnson, Matt Barclay and Camran Bonnema all saw varsity time as juniors and have fueled the Packers’ run this year.

“The result last year was a state championship,” said Huber, who posted a .448 average in conference play this year. “You always hope and try to repeat that. We’ve built off what we had returning and a lot of the new guys to the team stepped up, which is nice.”

Huber played every infield position last season, but has settled in at shortstop this spring.

“It’s a lot easier knowing you are going to play in one spot every game and not have to bring three different gloves to the ballpark,” Huber said. “It’s nice being able to play shortstop and getting into a rhythm, but I’ll play anywhere. It doesn’t matter. I just love to play baseball.”

Wolden, the Packers leadoff hitter and center fielder, posted a team-high 13 RBIs, eight walks, and 15 runs scored during conference play.

“I’ve always batted leadoff, but this year I’ve learned what it really means to be a leadoff hitter,” Wolden said. “You have to take pitches and meet with the other guys in the dugout about the pitcher. I have matured the most as a ballplayer this spring.”

Wolden said despite the shortened season, the Packers have been able to carry over their success from last season.

“Going into the season, I was somewhat unsure on what was going to happen,” Wolden said. “I hadn’t played with a lot of the guys on the team, but the more games we played, the more we became a team.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562