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West Fargo's Jolene Woodbury delivers a pitch against Fargo South on Friday night at Elmwood Park. David Samson / The Forum
West Fargo's Jolene Woodbury delivers a pitch against Fargo South on Friday night at Elmwood Park. David Samson / The Forum

Softball steamrolls

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Packers Fargo, 58102

Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

An undefeated start has the Packers looking like an early favorite to repeat as state softball champions.

But coach Pat Johnson said there still is work to do.

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"I don't think we've really gotten into a good rhythm yet," he said, pointing to the inclement weather as the biggest culprit. "I think once we get in a good week of games, like this week, it'll set us up for a better rhythm."

Even if Pat Johnson isn't yet satisfied with his team's cohesiveness, West Fargo's numbers are nonetheless impressive. Five games into the season, the Packers sit as the top team in the state. Last week saw them win three straight, knocking in a combined total of 36 runs while allowing just one against.

Much of the Packer success stems from a stifling pitching staff, which has given up only one earned run so far. Kacie Johnson leads the way with a 3-0 record, while Jolene Woodbury sits at 2-0.

"Pitching is working hard right now," Pat Johnson said. "Kacie isn't giving up many hits, and Jolene struggled a bit on her location but battled through it."

Kacie Johnson and Woodbury combined for a no hitter Monday in a 19-0 win over Central Cass. The trend continued Tuesday as the Packers beat Fargo north 11-1 behind Jordyn Johnson. Then Friday, they blanked Fargo South 6-0 in a game in which Woodbury picked up her second win of the season and kept the Bruins scoreless through six innings.

In 16 innings pitched, Kacie Johnson has struck out 24 batters, walked 4 and given up 4 hits. Woodbury has pitched 13 innings, striking out 15 batters and walking 8. Both have ERAs of 0.44 or less.

But where West Fargo's pitching has set the table, it's batting that cleaned the plate.

"Some are a little bit further ahead on batting right now, but others are still working at it," Pat Johnson said.

One hitter who definitely has found her swing is Danielle Nelson. The senior has knocked in 10 hits and 6 RBIs, while leading the Packers with a batting average of .625. Nelson went 2-for-3 with a triple Monday, and 3-for-4 with two triples Tuesday.

Another top slugger is Kacie Johnson. She's accumulated a triple, two doubles and gone .500 at the plate, while her 11 RBIs are a team-high. Sydney Greenlund also is swinging away. The junior currently has West Fargo's lone home run, as well as 8 RBIs, a triple, a double and 6 hits in 16 plate appearances.

Other producers include Shanna Plehal, Brook Rheault and Katie Woodbury.

While the Packers are sitting pretty at 5-0, Pat Johnson is not satisfied with coasting the next five weeks until the state tournament.

"There always are things that pop up. ... When you miss so many games, it's tough to find out what you're doing right and wrong," he said. "There's always something new to get better at."

West Fargo should get plenty of chances to work out the kinks, barring any more cancellations from weather. They were scheduled to head to Grand Forks Central (0-2) on Tuesday, but results from the doubleheader were not available by press time. The Packers play again Thursday as host to Grand Forks Red River (2-2), with games slated for 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

If there's one thing to be said about West Fargo softball players, it's that they aren't slouches.

"The girls are working hard. They're tired of being inside and practicing all the time," Pat Johnson said. "Everybody is battling through and they're working hard to improve."

With the good start they're having, though, the Packers must be doing something right.

"We've got enough clicking to win right now," he said.

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