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Season Preview: Softball

Thirteen: that is the number of state titles the Packers have won in a row.

There is no doubt that West Fargo has kept an impeccable streak clicking as one of the state's strongest softball teams. But with such notoriety brings the realization that all streaks, both good and bad, come to an eventual end. It's a thought that likely weighs heavily on this year's squad.

"Before your first state title, you don't have a bull's-eye on your back," West Fargo coach Pat Johnson said after last year's state title victory. "Then, it just gets bigger and bigger."

With a team-sized target 13 years in the making, this season's Packers softball team needs to be at the top of its game if it wants to see that trend continue.

Fortunately, it should have the tools to do so.

Who to watch

Although the Packers are losing just two seniors from last year, they were integral to the team's success.

Madison Anderson was an All-Conference outfielder who was one of the Packers' strongest offensive threats. She finished the season with a .425 batting average, led her team with 12 stolen bases, and tied for most triples with five. She also amassed 35 runs on 34 hits, and had two homers.

Catcher Allison Klug also will be missed. Like Anderson, Klug was an All-Conference player with talents at both offense and defense. In 23 games played, Klug put up a .484 batting average with 25 runs, one dinger and 34 runs batted in.

But while Anderson and Klug may leave big shoes to fill, the Packers have the right players to do the job.

One of the team's top returners is Pat Johnson's daughter Kacie. Now in her final season with the team, the two-time All-Conference and three-time All-State pitcher will be hoping to go out with a bang.

Last season, Kacie Johnson led the Packers in both pitching and hitting. In the batter's box, she amassed an average of .547 on 52 hits, 13 doubles, 45 runs, 5 home runs and 40 RBIs, all of which were team highs.

She was just as deadly on the mound. In more than 114 innings pitched, the ace racked up a 19-1 record and a 1.102 earned runs average, striking out more than 140 batters, while walking 22 and allowing just 18 earned runs.

Brook Rheault and Jolene Woodbury are slated to be West Fargo's other pitchers (Kelsey Daul pitched a 3-0 record last season, but is listed as a center fielder this year). Of the two, Rheault got the most time on the mound. In slightly less than 48 innings pitched, the then-sophomore racked up a 6-1 record and 1.909 ERA off 41 strikeouts and 13 earned runs.

Woodbury got substantially less time to strut her stuff, pitching just three innings. Of the seven batters she faced, however, she struck out six and walked one, giving her an ERA of 0.

Another positive in West Fargo's favor is the return of all three of its All-State players. Besides Kacie Johnson, seniors Danielle Nelson and Carissa Becher earned the honor last season, along being named to the All-Conference team.

With a batting average of .500, Nelson was behind only Johnson from a slugging standpoint. Nelson amassed 32 RBIs and 38 runs, while striking out just five times.

Becher also shined at the plate. She was second on the Packers with 34 RBIs, and put up a .396 batting average off 36 hits, 30 runs, 2 homers and 7 strikeouts.

After the first week of spring sports was canceled because of poor field and weather conditions, the Packers were scheduled to start their season Tuesday hosting a doubleheader against Devils Lake. Much like the beginning of the season, however, the game was postponed until a later date.

Up next for West Fargo is a doubleheader slated for Thursday at Elmwood Park. It kicks off at 4:30 p.m. against Valley City, with the finale at 6:30 p.m. against Enderlin. The Packers also are scheduled to face Moorhead in Detroit Lakes, Minn., on Saturday at 10 a.m.