There from the start, ready for the finishDickinson softball coach Bill Butterfield has joked with Kelsey Lafond all year. “We’ve had talks where I say I’m not going to let her go to college,” Butterfield said with a laugh. “She’s got to stick around.”
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Dickinson softball coach Bill Butterfield has joked with Kelsey Lafond all year.
“We’ve had talks where I say I’m not going to let her go to college,” Butterfield said with a laugh. “She’s got to stick around.”
Letting go isn’t easy for Lafond, let alone her coaches.
“She’s been a pillar, a leader,” Butterfield said.
This is graduation weekend for Lafond, both from high school and on the softball diamond.
Over the past four years, Lafond and the Dickinson softball program have grown up together.
This weekend, the senior will attempt to lead the Midgets to the place they’ve had their sights set on since the team was formed in 2009 — the Class A state tournament.
The Midgets host the West Region Tournament at Gress Complex today and Saturday. They play Jamestown at 1 p.m. today in its tournament opener. The top four teams advance to the state tournament.
Dickinson has a 19-9 record and the West’s No. 3 seed in the tournament. It’s a far cry from the winless season they experienced Lafond’s freshman year when the team was 0-24.
“From not winning any games our first year to almost making it to state last year, every year has been an improvement and we can’t ask for anything more really,” Lafond said. “It’s been awesome to be a part of it, to be a part of first starting out the program, to be able those first pitches and everything has been really cool.”
Lafond has been a standout middle infielder and has started several games at pitcher for the Midgets, including the team’s inaugural game against Minot High in April 2009, which was played in Sidney, Mont., because Dickinson’s fields still had snow on them.
This season, she has a 9-3 record with one save and a 2.25 earned-run average in the circle. At the plate, Lafond is batting .398 with a team-high 13 doubles, as well as 23 RBIs and 29 runs.
Like she has been for much of her career, Lafond is the Midgets’ most well-rounded player.
“I would kind of expect that out of her,” Butterfield said. “(She is) somebody who is that devoted to the game and has worked at it throughout the years.”
Mackee Hoffmann, Dickinson’s sophomore all-state catcher sitting out this season with a torn ACL in her knee, said she was fearful of Lafond’s pitching when she first began playing varsity softball.
“Everyone thought she was so fast,” Hoffmann said. “‘How can we hit off of Kelsey Lafond? She’s been doing this so long.’ We’re all scared of her and I used to be really afraid of her. Then I started catching for her and we became good friends.”
Today, Hoffmann sees Lafond as a senior leader with a calming presence in the dugout and on the diamond.
“Whenever the team gets worked up, she’s always there to calm us down,” Hoffmann said. “It’s not just me, it’s the entire team. She’s been really supportive to me and everyone in the program. She’s helping the younger kids and giving them lessons too. She’s really been helping everyone.”
As the team has grown, so has Lafond.
Her future plans include majoring in physical therapy at the University of North Dakota. She’s also batting around the idea of walking on to the UND softball team.
But that will be about three months from now.
This weekend comes first.
“I don’t want this to be my last tournament with this team,” she said. “This is my senior year. Tournament season, this is what I’ve been looking forward to for four years now. We’re all really excited and we want to go out with a bang this year.”
West Region Tournament
At Gress Softball Complex, Dickinson
1) No. 4 Minot High (15-11, 14-10 West) vs. No. 5 Bismarck High (12-16, 9-15 West), 3 p.m. (Field 3)
2) No. 2 Minot Ryan (24-5, 19-5 West) vs. No. 7 Turtle Mountain (1-23, 1-23 West), 1 p.m. (Field 1)
3) No. 3 Dickinson High (19-9, 16-8 West) vs. No. 6 Jamestown (4-20, 4-16 West), 1 p.m. (Field 3)
4) Game 2 loser vs. Game 3 loser, 3 p.m. (Field 1)
5) No. 1 Bismarck Century (25-4, 21-3 West) vs. Game 1 winner, 10 a.m. (Field 3)
6) Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 10 a.m. (Field 1)
State qualifier: Game 1 loser vs. Game 6 loser, noon (Field 1)
State qualifier: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 loser, noon (Field 3)
Championship: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 2 p.m. (Field 3)