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Mean streak: WF softball wins 14th straight state title

West Fargo's Danielle Nelson stretches for the ball to get the out at first against Bismarck Century during Saturday's championship game of the State Tournament at Apollo Field in Grand Forks. Christian Randolph, Grand Forks Herald

West Fargo's shear dominance in softball is mindboggling.

This year alone, the Packers finished with a 25-1 record (the lone loss coming against Bemidji, Minn.) en route to the program's 14th consecutive State Championship, and third straight since softball was sanctioned as a sport.

To say the Packers have a stranglehold on the state may be an understatement.

Nevertheless, behind the strong arm of Kacie Johnson, West Fargo charged to a commanding 7-2 victory over Bismarck Century in Saturday's State Tournament title matchup. Johnson pitched a complete game, striking out three and giving up seven hits. The outgoing Packer was named Senior Athlete of the Year, having pitched wins in all three State Tournament games, and earned her fourth All-State distinction.

Johnson, who led West Fargo in both pitching and batting, was not the only threat on the Packer bench. Danielle Nelson and Brook Rheault both earned spots next to Johnson on the All-State team.

In the tournament opener, West Fargo waltzed to a 9-0 win over Minot Ryan behind a relentless offensive push. Johnson was 2-for-4 with a triple and two runs. Nelson also did her part, hitting 3-for-4 at the plate with two doubles, a triple and two runs.

Facing Grand Forks Red River in the semifinals, the Packers got to work early with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Ashley Sather was 2-for-3 with a double, and Johnson was 2-for-4. Rheault hit a double in one of her two at-bats, as did Nelson.

In the title game, the Patriots struck first with a run in the bottom of the first inning. But they wouldn't score again until the third, after the Packers racked up four runs of their own. Nelson was 4-for-5 with two doubles, Sydney Greenlund went 2-for-4 with a triple.

While this year's team kept up with tradition by winning another state title, the Packers could be much different next year with the loss of key seniors.

For starters, the Packers will be without their ace, Johnson. She finished the year with a 16-1 pitching record and 0.48 ERA after striking out 134 batters. Her offense was just as impressive, having racked up 48 runs on 51 hits and a .526 batting average.

West Fargo also will be without Nelson and Kelsey Daul, two strong offensive and defensive threats.

But there will be plenty of Packers to pick up the pace, as pitchers Woodbury and Rheault should return, as will the offensive-minded Shannah Plehal, Lexi Lennon, and Greenlund.

Could West Fargo pick up State Title No. 15 next season? Only time will tell.