Defending champs continue to roll
In the spring of 2012, both the Packers' baseball and softball teams took home the North Dakota State Championships, but questions for the 2013 season arose for both teams, as the softball team lost five seniors and the baseball had a complete overhaul of its roster.
The changeover does not seem to matter, however, as both teams are currently at or very near the top of the Eastern Dakota Conference standings.
As of Monday, neither team has lost to a North Dakota team so far, as the softball team's two losses came from North St. Paul, Minn., and Rice Lake, Wis., and the baseball team's only loss came from the Moorhead Spuds in the first game of the season.
Overall, the baseball team is currently 11-1 (fix on Tuesday) and the softball team is 14-2.
"We are really playing well in all aspects," baseball coach Brett Peterson said. "We are getting good at-bats top to bottom. We're playing small ball well, getting bunts down and moving guys over. We're really doing the little things well."
"Everybody's chipping in where they can," softball coach Pat Johnson said. "We had an injury recently, but everyone has stepped up where they need to, and they have been getting better as we go, and that is what we're striving for."
Both teams can look to pitching as a key aspect of their success. The softball teams relies two pitchers -- senior Jolene Woodbury and junior Brittany Rheault -- while the baseball team has utilized eight different pitchers, highlighted by senior Camran Bonnema.
"Camran has been our ace, but we've had to go deep in the rotation," Peterson said. "We've had JV guys come up, and they've done what we have asked of them. Our guys have been throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count, and we've been playing good defense behind them."
Last year's winning teams were on the field right away, thanks to accommodating weather. This year's teams were forced to spend six weeks in the gym while snow piled up on the field, which prevented Johnson's team to key in on certain aspects of the game.
"We didn't get to work on everything we would have liked to inside," Johnson said. "It's hard to work on things like baserunning and recognizing the ball in the air when you're stuck in the gym. It's easy to get complacent when you're inside for a long time," Johnson said, "but we kept working hard and working together, and I'm not surprised we are where we are."
Peterson, on the other hand, sees the gym time as a good thing for his young team with only three returning varsity players.
"I knew going in that we had some talent coming up, but I didn't see this start coming, and I think the six weeks in the gym may not have been the worst thing in the world for our group of young guys," Peterson said. "We really got the fundamentals down, and it really helped the young pitchers."
With roughly one week left in the condensed regular season, both coaches are confident that their teams' drive will continue to flourish before playoffs begin.
"We haven't accomplished anything yet, and the guys know that," Peterson said. "But I like our work ethic. The guys stay hungry and keep getting better every day. I expect to stay at a high level, and I know the players do too."
"We need to work on a few things, but we are playing well," Johnson said. "We have a big game this week against Shanley (tomorrow evening at West Fargo High School), but if we come through with a win there, we'll be looking pretty good for the tournament."
Both teams with begin the Eastern Dakota Conference tournaments on Thursday, May 23.