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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 30 2013

West Fargo opens with state softball win, while Fargo North loses to Minot Ryan

WEST FARGO – Somewhere in a brochure, the local convention and visitors bureau should designate the softball field at Elmwood Park a point of interest. The North Dakota Class A state softball tournament didn’t miss a beat despite all the recent rain.

There were some interesting moments, but the West Fargo Packers didn’t miss a beat, either. Behind its stout defense, they defeated Bismarck 3-0 in the first round Thursday night.

“I think our team works well under pressure,” said center fielder Brittany Rheault. “We’ve played in a lot of big summer tournaments, we have that experience and we’re trying to defend our title.”

The Packers had their troubles breaking through against Bismarck eighth-grade pitcher Jaime Barta, who held them scoreless until Rheault’s home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

“I was thinking I wanted to be that spark for the team,” Rheault said. “I was ready that at-bat. She threw a lot outside, and that means we need to learn to adjust to it. We’re looking to improve every game.”

West Fargo added two more in the fifth when Paige Andel scored on an error and Morgan Stirling beat a throw at home on a fielder’s choice to make it 3-0.

West Fargo’s streak of 63 straight scoreless innings coming into the tournament was immediately challenged by the Demons in the top of the first inning. They loaded the bases on a single and two walks, but a fly out to center field ended the inning.

Starting pitcher Jolene Woodbury settled down from there.

She finished with 10 strikeouts.

“We didn’t bring the game we wanted to,” said Packers head coach Pat Johnson. “We tried to do too much, trying to hit everything out of the park. Credit to (Bismarck). We have to make sure we make some adjustments, because Century is not going to be afraid of us.”

West Fargo plays Bismarck Century at 6 p.m. in one semifinal followed by Minot Ryan and Dickinson 35 minutes after the completion of that game.

B 000 000 0–0 2 0

WF 000 120 0–3 4 0

Barta and Blair. Woodbury and Leibl. W–Woodbury. L–Barta. HR-West Fargo, Rheault.

Minot Ryan 6, Fargo North 2

Minot Ryan won its last four games heading into the state tournament by a combined 41-1. By that account, the Spartans did OK.

A heavy rain hit the complex in the top of the seventh inning and by then, sophomore Hannah Stewart already brought a storm.

“She’s tough,” said North head coach Aaron Kliniske. “Our problem today was we threatened a few times, but we didn’t push anything across.”

On the mound, Stewart struck out 11 Spartans and held them to eight scattered hits, with Sami Trana’s run-scoring double in the top of the first inning and Keely Spiess’ RBI double in seventh as the only damage.

At the plate, Stewart blasted a two-run home run in the third inning that easily cleared the portable Elmwood fence and had the look of almost clearing the baseball wall.

“She’s so strong,” Kliniske said. “You can’t give her anything out over the plate.”

FN 100 000 1–2 8 1

MR 102 012 x–6 10 0

Fischer and Mellick. Stewart and Lipp. W–Stewart. L–Fischer. HR–Ryan, Stewart.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia