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Kessel carries Cougars to crown: Heart River wins inaugural Southwest Sub-Regional Tournament

Heart River sophomore pitcher Abby Kessel and sophomore Mattea Binstock collide on a pop up in the infield against Watford City on Thursday, May 17 from the Wolf Softball Complex. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)1 / 3
Watford City senior pitcher Mikka Haugeberg rears back during the second inning against Heart River on Thursday, May 17 from the Wolf Softball Complex. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)2 / 3
Beulah junior Trinity Doe makes contact against Central McLean during a West Region Qualifier on Thursday, May 17 from the Wolf Softball Complex. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)3 / 3

BEULAH — In just four short years, the Heart River girls softball team has transformed from stumbling its way through its debut season to becoming a state powerhouse.

After qualifying for the Class B state tournament last season, the Cougars took one step closer to repeating that feat, defeating Watford City 4-2 in the inaugural Southwest Sub-Regional Championship Game on Thursday, May 17 from the Wolf Softball Complex.

Aided by early run support, sophomore starter Abby Kessel pitched a complete game three-hitter as the Cougars sit with an unblemished record of 16-0.

"Four years ago when we started this program, we didn't have a varsity win our first year," said Heart River head coach Kendra Schillo, who was selected as the Southwest Sub-Region Coach of the Year. "I told the girls then to keep their heads, just keep working hard, keep practicing and good things will happen. Low and behold, they've made my words come true because they have worked so hard and now they are getting to reap the rewards from that."

Heart River plated four runs in the bottom of the first inning, starting their surge by taking advantage of a costly Wolves error.

Following an infield single from freshman infielder Caylee Wilke, fellow freshman Jersey Filkowski rocketed a line-drive single to the opposite field. Watford City sophomore Lily Olson misplayed the ball in right field, allowing Filkowski to reach third base and Wilke to score from first.

Sophomore cleanup hitter Mattea Binstock reached after she was hit by a pitch and promptly stole second base. With two runners in scoring position, eighth-grade infielder Meg Silbernagel dropped a two-run bloop single into left. Two batters later, Taylar Fagerberg increased the lead with a RBI single to right.

On the mound, Kessel was in complete control, mixing her location and using elevated fastballs to get swings-and-misses. She only allowed three baserunners and an unearned run through the first five innings.

"My game-plan was to throw strikes and get ahead of batters," Kessel said. "I love how my team cheers so loud, so I just feed off of the positive energy and go out and throw."

Her counterpart, Wolves starter Mikka Haugeberg was equally as impressive after a rough first inning.

The senior hurler dismissed the Cougars in order in the third, fifth and sixth. At the plate, Haugeberg jumped on Kessel's lone mistake, pumping a solo home run over the left-field fence.

"She was wonderful and spot on," Wolves head coach Devin Langerud said. "That's what we expect every time and that's what she always do, she always throws good."

Heart River, Watford City, Wilton-Wing and Central McLean will all advance to West Regional Tournament held in Turtle Lake next week.

Wilton-Wing punched its ticket with an 11-10 victory over Washburn while Central McLean scored all of its runs in the sixth and seventh innings, coming away with an 11-7 comeback victory over Beulah.

The Miners jumped out to a 4-0 advantage while holding the Cougars to just one hit through the first five frames. But after drawing seven walks and capitalizing on five Beulah errors, Central McLean scored four runs in the top of the sixth and seven runs in the seventh.

Beulah junior Trinity Doe grounded into a fielder's choice for the game's final out with the tying run in the on-deck circle.

"After the first five innings, I felt really good. The team was up, they were supporting each other, but that inning and a half is what killed us and unfortunately, you could sense that," Miners head coach Michelle Brouwer said. "Class A, Class B, collegiate ball, you see it all the time; one team gets up and the other team kind of quiets down. If you rattle the cage a little bit, the feelings kind of switch. Unfortunately, things switched and we were on the downside."

Southwest Sub-Regional Championship

Heart River 4, Watford City 2

WC 000 101 0 — 2 3 1

HR 400 000 x — 4 6 3

WC: Mikka Haugeberg (6) and Avery Sundeen. HR: Abby Kessel (7) and Mattea Binstock.

W—Kessel. Haugeberg. HR—WC: Haugeberg.

Highlights: WC: Sydney Faller, 1-3; Haugeberg 1-3, HR, R, 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 K. HR: Meg Silbernagel, 1-3, 2 RBI, R; Kessel 1-2, 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R (ER), 7 K.

West Region Qualifier

Central McLean 11, Beulah 7

CM 000 004 7 — 11 4 1

B 110 012 2 — 7 11 6

CM: Sophie Sparrow (7) and Daisy Sparrow. B: Trinity Doe (7) and Phoebe Barman.

W—S. Sparrow. L—Barman. HR—Name.

Highlights: CM: Morgan Reiser 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, 2 R; Sage Longtin 1-3, BB, R. B: Barman 2-4, 3B, BB, 2 R; Cassidy Nelson 2-3, BB, 2 R.

2018 SW All-Region Team

Beulah: Phoebe Garman; Taylor Christensen. Central McLean: Kaylie Wilson. Heart River: Abby Kessel; Mattea Binstock; Caylee Wilke. Washburn: Jordan Waldren; Alexis Kulzer. Watford City: Mikka Haugeberg; Avery Sundeen; Maddison Spacher. Wilton-Wing: Lauren Koski; Taryn Schurhamer.

Senior Athlete of the Year: Lauren Koski — Wilton-Wing

Coach of the Year: Kendra Schillo — Heart-River

Patrick Bernadeau

Patrick Bernadeau is a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press. He can be reached at his office number (701) 456-1211 or email him at Joining the Dickinson Press in July 2017, he was previously a freelance sports writer for Treasure Coast Newspapers ( in Stuart, FL as well as carrying bylines from the Associated Press, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel, Florida Today and Naples Daily News. Prior to his move to Dickinson, he resided in Port St. Lucie, FL, earning a Bachelor's Degree from Florida Atlantic University. Patrick was born and raised in Brockton, Mass and is an avid Boston sports fan. Born to Haitian parents, Patrick's favorite meal is Griot with Banana Peze, Pikliz (Fried pork with smashed plaintains and a spicy vegetable relish) and a tall glass of Cherry Coke.

(701) 456-1211