A day removed from the biggest play of her varsity softball career, the moment remains a blur for Tori Nichols-Kraft.
After struggling to get anything going against Valley City pitcher Hailey Schaefer for five-plus innings, West Fargo put two runners on base for Nichols-Kraft, who uncorked a three-run home run to left field, lifting the Packers to a 3-1 win in championship game of the East Region Softball Tournament Saturday.
Must have been an exciting moment, no?
"Honestly, I don't really even remember," Nichols-Kraft said in a Sunday phone interview. "It all came so fast. It didn't seem real."
One thing that is very real; the Packers are back in a familiar spot as the top-seed out of the East in the Class A State Tournament, which begins Thursday in Minot.
Returning players are well aware of what happened last season, when an 8-4 opening-round loss to Bismarck Century ended a 23-year streak of state championships.
But whereas that team, which was just 4-4 in its previous eight games entering state, had hit a bit of a late-season lull, these Packers come in on fire, having won 15 games in a row.
Despite the disappointment of a season ago, players and coaches have insisted all year it removed a great deal of pressure this spring and are singing a similar refrain as they get ready for the final weekend.
"There's still pressure but there's less than last year," Nichols-Kraft said. "I think there's an expectation that is kind of off now. And it feels good to play and just be our own team."
The Packers close out day one at roughly 6 p.m. against host Minot at the Minot South Hill Softball Complex Thursday.
Mustangs figure it out vs. Shanley
Panic never set in for West Fargo Sheyenne Saturday, even with their season on the line.
Down 6-0 early, the Mustangs scored 15 unanswered runs, with 10 coming in the fifth inning of a 15-6, state-qualifier win over Fargo Shanley.
The rally kick-started an offense that had been dormant for 10 innings, as a 2-0 loss to Valley City on Thursday put the Mustangs in the elimination round.
Katelyn Galde, who got Sheyenne on the board with a single in the previous inning, delivered the biggest blow of the fifth, as her home run game Sheyenne the lead for good.
Mustang coach Mark Woodbury says come-from-behind wins are a big part of his team's DNA.
"We've done that a number of times where we've fallen behind early and come back and won," he said. "Usually, if we are behind in a game, we take that attitude where we're not done. We can always come back."
That resolve will be tested in the state opener, as awaiting Sheyenne is a Bismarck Century team that swept them in a May 10 doubleheader. After a narrow 7-6 loss in the opener, the Mustangs were routed 21-8 in game two.
The Patriots bring one of the most prolific offenses in the state, having scored double-digit runs in 20 of 32 games.
"We're going to have to play a clean game because they will hit the ball," Woodbury said. "But if we can just play a clean game and make the plays we're supposed to make defensively, I like our chances."
Sheyenne and Century are set to play at approximately 1 p.m. Thursday.