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West Fargo softball sweeps into another season

With 14 consecutive years worth of state tournament trophies and more than a decade of domination, the West Fargo softball team's prowess at the game is unmistakable.

And after their season opener last week, it would seem they're picking up right where they left off.

"It's going to be an exciting year, hopefully, and I'm sure everyone will be gunning for us," longtime West Fargo coach Pat Johnson said. "But we just need to improve and grow as a team every day."

That growth has started since Day 1, as the Packers kicked off 2012 with a pair of wins Friday over visiting Fargo South.

In the first game, sophomore Brittany Rheault pitched a one-hitter and a shutout as the Packers charged to a 10-0 win. In the nightcap, it was junior Jolene Woodbury's turn on the mound, as she gave up just one run off two hits in her team's 26-1 victory.

Both games were shortened to five innings.

From the outside, it would seem that West Fargo is the same team it always has been. But there are some stark differences this year compared to years past, starting with a player synonymous with West Fargo.

Kacie Johnson, a Packers staple, is a noticeable absence after graduating last spring. She led her team in nearly every batting and pitching category, was a four-time All State recipient, and was named Region 1 Senior Athlete of the year and Gatorade Softball Player of the Year.

"Every year is a little different because you lose some of your senior leaders," Pat Johnson said. "But every year, new players step up, too."

West Fargo is without five seniors from last year. Danielle Nelson was another offensive threat that will be missed. She led the Packers with a .535 batting average, nine triples, and 12 stolen bases.

But some new West Fargo talent already made noise in their season opener.

Lexi Lennon was 2-for-2 at the plate and scored three runs in the first game. Sydney Greenlund tallied a pair of homers in the nightcap, and Brook Rheault was 3-for-4 with five runs batted in.

Brook Rheault is the only remaining Packer from last year's state tournament team with All-State and All-Conference honors. The senior finished last year with 32 hits, 23 RBIs and a .457 batting average.

Brook Rheault will also spend some time on the mound. In 2011, she finished with a 3-0 record and a 1.17 earned runs average.

West Fargo has five seniors to pave the way for a 15th consecutive state championship. Of those, Brook Rehault, Katie Woodbury and Sydney Greenlund are captains.

Besides Brittany and Brook Rheault pitching for West Fargo, Pat Johnson said Jolene Woodbury will also take her turns. The junior finished 6-0 in 2011 as a sophomore, and allowed just 5 earned runs in that span for a 0.95 ERA.

All the Packers will need to find their niche if they hope to make another notch in the history books. This year, for the first time, the teams will battle in regional championships to qualify for the state tournament.

There are nine teams in the East Regioin and seven teams in the rest of the state. Class B also has 15 teams, which is a testament to the growth of softball in North Dakota.

It's an exciting time, Pat Johnson said, and he hopes West Fargo can reach those lofty heights yet again.

"But our first goal is to get better every game," he said.