Cougars win blowout against Washburn

Heart River Cougars steal 9 bases, defeat Cardinals 10-2, with good eyes and small ball tactics.

Kailee Tescher sliding into home plate.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

South Heart, ND — The young and large roster of the Heart River Cougars are in full swing, with the weather finally permitting some actual consistent playing time. They hosted a Region 4 counter against the Washburn/Center-Stanton Cardinals on Tuesday, winning by 10-2 with passed balls sending runners zooming from bases to home plate.

The Cougars (3-2, 3-2) predicted the Cardinals (1-5, 1-5) ace pitcher Kya Kulzer would limit their hits, and only managed one on the day, but were well-prepared with attentive runners who stole nine bases and reached first base off of five dropped third strikes.

Kya Kulzer held the circle for six innings.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Kulzer had 13 strikeouts, allowing only one walk and one hit.

“Their pitcher Kya Kulzer, she is a sophomore and we knew the hits were going to be few and far between,” Kendra Schillo, Heart River head coach, said. “She is an outstanding pitcher and we knew our best chance was probably going to be to put some pressure on their defense and run around the bases and I was very pleased with how aggressive our girls were.”

Heart River got onto the scoreboard early with two runs, thanks to a passed ball. Their biggest inning came at the bottom of the fourth, with four runs, each coming from testing their opponent’s defense.


Sydney Froehlich and Kaci Davis led the Cougars in steals with two each. Davis crossed home plate three times in the game to lead her team in runs.

Sydney Froehlich gets the putout from a flyball.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Gretchen Silbernagel, who is only an eighth-grader, manned the circle for the game's entirety, retiring eight batters, surrendering nine hits and two walks. Even though Washburn was able to tally nine hits off Silbernagel, including an RBI double from seventh-grader Kayla Hammons, they only managed to score two runs and had nine runners left stranded.

Gretchen Silbernagel making a pitch.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Schillo said that the constant cheering in their dugout and on the field was a big contributing factor and is a component that has come to define the Heart River softball program since its inception.

“I had a very high compliment paid to me by one of the players today and she said, ‘I just love how everybody on our team is everybody else's biggest cheerleader,’” Schillo said. I think it's been tradition since we first started. I had another coach say, ‘Oh you know Heart River is here, you can hear them,' And that is fantastic, I love that… It is sort of passed down and learned from one class to the next.”

Kaci Davis slides home from a passedball, Cardinals' pitcher guarding teh plate.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Schillo said that they are not impervious to defensive errors, with them collecting four, and as happy as she was with their performance, she wants to see the Cougars’ defense tighten up. She also wants versatility in the batter’s box, with the extensive competition found in Region 4.

Cardinals get a run, but get an out on third from an advancing runner.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

“It is a rebuilding year and you just never know what you are going to get from these younger players. We are definitely not even close to where we can be, but I am very pleased with the progress we are making and I think we can improve even more and we might be tough come tournament time,” Schillo said. “We will play teams that have really slow pitchers, but then will have teams like Washburn, Beulah, Vela and Turtle Lake, who have all-state pitchers. Being able to adjust to the timing has been difficult for our younger hitters especially.”

On Friday, they will be traveling to Turtle Lake to face Central McLean Cougars, a team that will further test their offense.

Their biggest challenge yet will come next week on Tuesday, where they will be traveling to Beulah to participate in a triangular between the No. 1 Beulah Miners and No. 2 Velva-Drake/Anamoose Aggies. Both teams are undefeated in the region and have one defeat in their overall records.


Abigail Conery behind the plate.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Heart River 10, Washburn 2
WSHB 010 001 0 — 2 9 3
HRTR 202 411 X — 10 1 4

HRTR: Davis 1-4, 2RBIs, 2SB;
WSHB: Braun 1-2, TB; Nelson 1-4, TB; Hammons 2-4, 2B, 3TB; Neumiller, 1-3, 1TB; Samuelson 1-3, TB; Olson 2-2, 2TB; Klabunde 1-2, TB.

HRTR: Silbernagel (WP) 7IP, 9H, 2R, 1ER, 2BB, 8K
WSHB: Kulzer 6IP, 1H, 10R, 1ER, 1BB, 13K

Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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