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Starting off on the right foot

When Dickinson High decided to form a fast-pitch softball team, track and field runner Haley Fong was left with a difficult decision. "They're two sports I really love," said Fong, who plays slow-pitch softball every summer. "(The decision) was a...

Haley Fong
Press Photo by Chris Aarhus Dickinson High junior Haley Fong plays catch on photo day at a Tuesday practice at the Dickinson High gymnasium. The Midgets started their inaugural season on Monday, falling to Minot in a doubleheader in Sidney, Mont. This is the first year of sanctioned girls softball.

When Dickinson High decided to form a fast-pitch softball team, track and field runner Haley Fong was left with a difficult decision.

"They're two sports I really love," said Fong, who plays slow-pitch softball every summer. "(The decision) was a long process and something had to give. I just felt if I didn't go out for softball, I'd regret it in the future."

So Fong, a junior, went with her gut instinct and in her first doubleheader against Minot on Monday in Sidney, Mont., she cracked a triple. However, the team's inexperience was evident as the Midgets lost both games.

Making the leap to fast pitch isn't easy, Fong said.

"Fast pitch is a whole different game," she said. "We can steal and it's (faster). It's exciting and it's a good time."

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Dickinson coach Bill Butterfield said he expects there to be growing pains along the way, especially since the team has 11 juniors and seniors with no prior fast pitch experience.

"Eleven of those girls took it upon themselves to come out and stick their neck out," Butterfield said. "That's a big number, a lot bigger than we thought it would be."

In all, 30 girls came out for softball in grades 7-12 and Butterfield said his coaching staff will work toward developing a lineup that best suits the team during tournament time.

"Right now, we're going to be filtering back and forth," Butterfield said. "The biggest thing is when we get to tournament time, we'll have a varsity set and away we go."

Fong, a second baseman who also plays in the outfield, said it's interesting seeing seventh graders compete for the same spots as juniors and seniors.

"They're fighting for the same spots we are," Fong said. "It's just a battle out there and we all get along. It's amazing to see grades 7 to 12 getting along."

In the circle, Dickinson will look to freshman hurler Kelsey LaFond, who Butterfield said has the most experience at the position.

"She has some good experience in the summer league," Butterfield said. "She's looking real good."

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Mariah Quintus is behind LaFond in the rotation and if the team were to need a third pitcher, seventh-grader Haley Butterfield could step in. Coach Butterfield said the team isn't real deep right now, but noted that building depth will come with playing games.

"I think we're going to develop depth as the season goes on," Butterfield said. "We went and played a game and saw what we've really got to work on, like some fly balls. We haven't been able to hit fly balls (because of the weather)."

More than anything, Fong would like to see the team take a step forward each day.

"We just hope to learn more and get better every day," she said. "We've come leaps and bounds since the first day of practice."

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