Midgets reach state final for the fourth time in history
The two teams in the state championship were the last two runner-ups before the 2020 season cancellation.
A crowd gathered to watch the softball state semifinals of the Hi-Liners versus the Midgets, two teams that had yet to face each other this season. As Jenna Decker, Dickinson’s leadoff hitter, entered the batter’s box at the top of the first, she was eager to show the opponents how they do things. She immediately doubles on a line drive to the second baseman — the beginning to Taya Hopfauf’s game changing moment.
Mataya Mortensen would get Decker to third with a sacrifice bunt and Hopfauf would step up to bat.
As Hopfauf gripped her bat she knew the importance of bringing in Decker, but had no idea it would come from the first and only home run of the game.
“To be in the position where you have a runner on base like that and you know you need this next hit, those are the moments you live for,” Hopfauf said. “ You know you have to make good plays to beat good teams and it just felt great to be that person in that position.”
The Dickinson softball team have made it apparent that their aim was always the state championship and their commitment to that goal showed in their performance against Valley City, June 4. Contact with the pitch came in clutch moments which gave them the edge and the confidence to finish the game in great stride 6-0.
Both team’s pitchers brought their very best, not giving off any walks through the entire game. The Hi-Liners’ Hailey Schaefer had 10 strikeouts pitching all seven innings. Although she did have nine hits with six runs and made four errors, her reputation was well known to the Midgets.
“We knew that we were going to face a great pitcher and she definitely is a great pitcher,” Hopfauf said. “We just had to focus on seeing the ball and making good contact and being the hitting team that we are.”
Head coach Amanda Mickey did admire Schaefer’s pitching abilities but recognized that it only made Dickinson's outstanding success that much more impressive.
“To come out and put three runs on the board right away, definitely set the tone and definitely gave our pitchers confidence to go out there and do well in the circle,” Mickey said. “Jenna Decker did a fabulous job today, kid went three for four. For the lead off batter to get that leadoff double was amazing and then Taya coming in with that bomb definitely helped out.”
Dickinson garnered five hits in the first but would add one more run for the next three innings.
Their bats would heat up in the fifth once again with their leadoff batter, Decker singles on a grounder. Mortensen is able to make her way to first after an error from Valley City’s catcher, Emma Langemo. Paige Balliet would then bring Decker home from a bunt and Mortensen would find herself on third after previously stealing second. Reese Hauck would take Mortensen the rest of the way with a sacrifice bunt and Kali Kubas would grab the final RBI of the game bringing in Balliet off a single.
“Our offense wasn't the greatest but we did string together some good runs there and got those bunts down,” Mickey said. “To play the small game is something that is not easy to do and we executed it and they made an error and we capitalized on it.”
Mortensen and Ava Jahner pitched for the Midgets and had a combined 8 strikeouts.
Mortensen, who has been dealing with an injury all season, held the circle for the first four innings allowing only three hits and delivering 53 pitches — 40 of which were strikes.
“Mortensen did a fabulous job, she hasn't pitched since facing Jamestown and this will probably be the last time she pitches this year and to go out like that before a surgery we are very proud of her,” Mickey said. “Then for Ava to come in after her and shut them down… We had only three hits against Valley City, which is a great team, so we are just stoked on how well they pitched.”
The game came to an end and the Dickinson girls moved to the final round of the competition, ecstatic and able to look forward to how the final game could play out.
“It feels awesome, it's every team's goal to be in the position that we are. To see all of our hard work finally pay off and to be in the position that we are in right now is great. To know that tomorrow we have a chance to do something great, we just have to come out and play one more game and leave it all on the field tomorrow,” Hopfauf said. “We play all year round, we put in so much extra time; all of us. I think we do deserve to be here and we just have to prove that now.”
Just like in 2018, Dickinson will face another fellow WDA team in the final June 5, 3 p.m. CST. It will be the No.2 team in the conference, Bismarck high. The two teams faced each other early in the season in a double header that was won by Dickinson, 12-11, 5-2. This is the Demons third time in the state final, who have also never secured the championship.
“We don't change anything up when it comes to any game. I don't really hype them up with any speech or anything… I don't get nervous for them anymore because they are such a good team and it is so fun to watch them compete and work and it's just one of those special years of us doing well and we hope to compete well tomorrow,” Mickey said. “I am looking forward to setting the bar higher tomorrow for Dickinson High Softball, that’s for sure.”