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Rheault to carry load for Packer softball

West Fargo pitcher Brittany Rheault practices indoors for the upcoming season. David Samson

The West Fargo softball team has seen plenty of success over the past several seasons, but this season’s team has lots of youth, which means they are likely to rely on the leadership – and the arm – of pitcher Brittany Rheault.

The strong-armed senior pitched 95 of the team’s 168 innings last season, earning an overall ERA of .957 and playing a crucial role in the Packers’ state championship victory.

This season, she is one of just two seniors on a team that has parted ways with five of its top six hitters and one of its top pitchers.

“She is our leader right now,” head coach Pat Johnson said. “She has been around a long time and has been in some big games. This is a young team, and we need that senior leadership.”

Rheault, the daughter of Tim and Tani Rheault, has been playing softball since third grade. She is very dedicated to her academics – along with her role as student editor of the school newspaper, the Packer – but considers softball to be her “getaway” from everything else.

While she also plays golf in the fall, she has dedicated more of her offseason time to softball. This was apparent last season, as she went 14-1 on the pitcher’s mound, allowing just 13 runs all season and striking out 152 batters. Offensively, she accrued a batting average of .395 and had 10 extra-base hits as the team’s No. 3 hitter.

“She wants to get better all of the time,” Johnson said. “She never takes an inning off, because she knows she’ll have a good chance of getting beat that way. She really doesn’t like to lose.”

Last season, Rheault was a part of a strong pitching dynamic with Jolene Woodbury, who now plays at the University of Jamestown. The two pitched 163 of 168 innings for the Packers, and their different pitching styles provided enough of a punch for the defense.

“(Jolene and I) had a special bond,” Rheault said. “When I wasn’t at the top of my game, Jolene was. We could really feed off of each other and make each other stronger.”

Without Woodbury on the roster, Rheault knows that her role will increase significantly this season.

“She knows that she’ll have to throw a lot more for us – probably more games than she is used to,” Johnson said. “But in her, you have someone who is going to give it everything she has every time she is out on the field. She just needs to limit her highs and lows.”

While that may be nerve-racking for some, Rheault is looking forward to being a predominant contributor and role model for a Packers team that features three freshman.

“You have to be a leader to the younger girls,” Rheault said. “I have been in big situations, and I want to carry that mentality to ones who haven’t been there.”

After she graduates in May, she intends to attend the University of Jamestown, joining her older sister, Brook, and several former teammates on their softball team and pursuing a career in journalism.

According to her coach, she has the mindset and determination to find success at the college level.

“She is going to do the extra work in order to do well there,” Johnson said. “That is what you want to see in any athlete. She will want to compete right away, so she’ll give it whatever she can.”

While she has high hopes for herself and her team, Rheault just wants to make the best of her final season as a Packer.

“I love this group of girls, and I want them to experience the same success we have had in the past,” Rheault said. “The main thing I want to see is these girls coming out of their shells and delving into the challenges that come with defending our title.”

Weather permitting, the Packers will host the Grand Forks Red River Roughriders on Thursday for a 5 p.m. doubleheader.