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Back-to-back state cats: Cougars head to Class B state tournament after win over Stanley

The Heart River girls softball team poses for pictures after advancing to the Class B State Tournament on Tuesday, May 22 from the Turtle Lake Softball Complex. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)1 / 3
Heart River senior shortstop Alexis Urias runs toward home plate during the fourth inning of a West Region qualifier against Stanley on Tuesday, May 22 from the Turtle Lake Softball Complex. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press) 2 / 3
Heart River sophomore pitcher Abby Kessel delivers to the plate against Stanley on Tuesday, May 22 from the Turtle Lake Softball Complex. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)3 / 3

TURTLE LAKE — Walking through the confines of Lyle Lawrence Field in Jamestown at the 2017 Class B softball tournament, Heart River head coach Kendra Schillo jokingly admitted her team did not know how to come out for starting-lineup introductions.

But after a pair of wins during the 2018 West Region tournament, Schillo and the Cougar players will again have a chance to acclimate to their surroundings.

The Heart River girls softball team will be headed back to Jamestown after defeating Stanley 9-1 in a West Region State Qualifier on Tuesday, May 22 from the Turtle Lake Softball Complex.

After suffering their first defeat of the season in a 7-4 West Region semifinal loss to Bishop Ryan one day earlier, the Cougars' earned their second trip to state in the program's fourth year of existence

"We had a tough loss yesterday and I wasn't sure how they'd react but they showed the heart that they've shown all season ever since I've had them," Schillo said. "They came back, fought hard, and we've punched our ticket to state."

Heart River sophomore pitcher Abby Kessel sat the Blue Jays in order in the top of the first inning. Freshman infielder Quiahna Otero led the bottom half of the frame with a double and later scored from third on a passed ball.

The Cougars (18-1) doubled their lead in the next inning when sophomore pinch runner Heather Pavlish stole second base, stole third and scored when the throw to third went into the outfield.

In spite of the misplays, Stanley remained in the game thanks to sophomore pitcher Alyssa Ruden, who struck out the side in the second and got the Cougars out in order during the third.

"I'm just happy our girls fought really hard today," Blue Jays head coach Anthony Cuypers said. "We were going through a couple of injuries that we got yesterday; our pitcher today pitched two innings yesterday because of a pulled groin. I'm happy she came back and fought through it for her teammates."

In the bottom of the fourth, the Cougars broke the game open, taking advantage of a pair of Stanley fielding errors and a passed ball. Scoring four runs in the inning, Heart River put pressure on the defense by executing bunts and stealing bases.

"When we [steal], we usually win. This is the first year that we've really played with expectations and I thought both games yesterday, we played tight," said Schillo, who was selected as the West Region Coach of the Year. "We were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. So when they had errors and we starting running around the bases, it kind of reminded us good things happen when we put pressure on the other team. I felt like we went back to where we were and were able to make something happen instead of waiting for something to happen."

Sophomore catcher Mattea Binstock singled and scored in that crucial inning. Contributing to the advantage, Binstock believes it helped enable her and the Cougar fielders to operate freely.

"It's a great feeling to not have as much pressure on defense," Binstock said.

Facing the minimum through five innings, Kessel finished her complete game allowing a run on three hits and two walks, while striking out nine. The two batterymates were selected to All-Regional team.

On the wrong side of a no-hit performance in their first game, Heart River bounced back with two wins and a fifth-place finish in last season's state tournament.

This season, the Cougars do not intend on walking into Jamestown with wide eyes.

"In the beginning of the season, we all made it a goal to go back to state. The opportunity to go back to state is awesome," Binstock said. "Last year, it was a surprise. We didn't think we'd go to state, but I think this year, we expect more from ourselves."

Heart River 9, Stanley 1

S 000 000 1 — 1 3 5

HR 110 412 x — 9 8 0

S: Alyssa Ruden (6) and Shayna Dazell. HR: Abby Kessel and Mattea Binstock.

W—Kessel. L—Ruden. HR—None.

Highlights: S: Ruden 1-3, RBI; Alondra Salgado 1-2, BB. HR: Kessel 7 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, R, 9 K. Kaylee Binstock 2-3, 3 SB, 2 R, RBI.

All-Regional Team

Abby Kessel, Mattea Binstock — Heart River

Erica Hermanson, Bryn Benno — Des Lacs Burlington-Lewis & Clark

McKinlee Harmon, Sealy Rovig — Bishop Ryan

Mikka Haugeberg — Watford City

Phoebe Garman — Beulah

Jordan Waldren — Washburn

Lauren Koski — Wilton-Wing

Janie Savelkoul — Kenmare-Bowbells-MLS

Alyssa Ruden — Stanley

Lexi Gullett — Westhope-Newburg-Bottineau

West Regional Senior Athlete of the Year

Lauren Koski — Wilton-Wing

West Regional Coach of the Year

Kendra Schillo

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 pbernadeau@thedickinsonpress.com. Joining the Dickinson Press in July 2017, he was previously a freelance sports writer for Treasure Coast Newspapers (TCPalm.com) 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