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Boys of spring take to the field

West Fargos boys of spring will try to take that next step and win one more game in the regional tournament, looking to once again make their way back to the elusive State A Tournament by earning one of the four berths from the Eastern Dakota Conference this year.

That hasnt been as easy as it might sound for Brett Peterson and the Packers, who have missed four of the last five tournaments. Last year, Petersons team, on the brink of elimination, found the right mix and marched its way to Jamestown and the State A for the first time since 2001, thanks in part to a group of juniors that return this year as senior leaders.

Its a good group, with a lot of familiar faces, Peterson said. Even the younger guys, through summer ball and junior varsity last spring, have some good experience. We should be right in the mix.

West Fargo started the season on a sour note as Justin Hanson struck out eight Packers on Thursday to lead the South Bruins to a 10-2 victory. The Packers, leading the nightcap 5-2, lost the second game (which doesnt count in the standings) on a grand slam, 6-5, to fall to 0-2 on the season, 0-1 in the EDC.

Monday, however, West Fargo got back on track, thanks in large part to pitcher/outfielder Cole Horsager. The junior was sparkling against the Wahpeton Huskies, tossing a complete game no-hitter, with just a walk and a hit batsman breaking up a perfect game.

Without a doubt, its one of the best pitching performances Ive ever seen at this level, Peterson, who watched as Horsager struck out 11 Huskies on the day, said. He just had every pitch working for him today. He kept the ball down, and he did a great job. Thats a great way to get your first win of the season.

With both games against the Huskies counting in the standings, Mondays late afternoon contest was just as important as the opener. The Packers treated it accordingly, jumping out to a 4-0 lead after a rally in the bottom of the first.

Wahpeton stayed pesky, scoring one run in each of the second, third and fourth innings. But the Packers, taking advantage of a blustery day, put the ball in play and gave pitcher Dustin Gregory some run support in the bottom of the third, scoring twice on a rally keyed by Justin Rheaults one-out, RBI double.

Leading 6-3, West Fargo added some insurance in the bottom of the fifth, scoring on a pair of hits and a pair of wild pitches by the Huskies. The 8-3 lead would prove crucial, as Matt Renfrew, in for Gregory, gave up three runs in the top of the seventh. Most came on defensive mistakes, as the Pack committed seven errors in the 10-7 win.

The wind was really tough, but we left a lot of plays out there today. The guys were a little worn out by the end of it. Its work just to stand still in wind like this. I think, ultimately, defense will be one of our strong points. It just wasnt there for us today. But we had enough offense in that second game to compensate, so well take the two wins, Peterson said.

This years Packer squad has senior experience, led by outfielder Alex Salquist, a starter since he was a sophomore. Renfrew is the only other senior in the outfield, but juniors like Horsager, Rheault, Curtis Hensley and Tyler Greshik give Peterson a lot of depth.

In the infield, everyone is back except for first baseman Brock Storrusten, who graduated last year. Josh Green will man third base, while junior Grant Schmidt steps in to fill Storrustens shoes, a situation Peterson likes. Brandon Reber is an experienced second baseman, while Matt Kulesa is a strong shortstop.

Behind the plate, Tyrel Thorson is a senior leader and experienced catcher. He called a great game during Horsagers no-hitter.

The pitcher gets all the credit, but no doubt some of that is Tyrel, Peterson said. He did a good job of keeping them on their toes.

West Fargo will travel to Fargo Shanley on Friday, a switch from the printed schedule released earlier this year. Theyll now host the Deacons on May 9, which is when the Packers were originally scheduled to travel to Tharaldson Fields.

Fridays game will be played at the diamond off of 42nd Street, and game time will still be at 5 p.m.

Afterward, the team will pack up and head to Marshall, Minn., for a spring tournament against a big field of competition. Theyll return to Fargo on Tuesday, April 25, when they face Fargo North. That game is at 5 p.m. at Spartan Field, southwest of the school.