ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

'We want it all to ourselves': Midgets aim to stand atop the softball mountain

Last season, the Dickinson High girls softball finished in a three-way tie with Bishop Ryan and Bismarck Century atop the WDA regular season standings.

Dickinson senior catcher Jordie McNeilly throws the ball back to the pitcher during last year's season opener against Minot on March 31, 2017 from the Gress Softball Complex. (Press File Photo)
Dickinson senior catcher Jordie McNeilly throws the ball back to the pitcher during last year's season opener against Minot on March 31, 2017 from the Gress Softball Complex. (Press File Photo)

Last season, the Dickinson High girls softball finished in a three-way tie with Bishop Ryan and Bismarck Century atop the WDA regular season standings.

Despite failing to pick up their third consecutive regional tournament crown, the Midgets still made their sixth straight appearance in the state tournament, capturing a third-place finish.

This year, the route through the West Region is slightly altered.

Bishop Ryan is no longer a region rival, reclassifying to Class B during the winter. But even with the change in competition, the goal remains the same.

"Losing Bishop is hard because they were a good team and they pushed us to be better every single year. Coach Julie Stewart did a great job there," Midgets head coach Amanda Mickey said. "This year, we want to come out with a bang. Last year, we split [WDA] three ways for first and we want it all to ourselves this year, that's our plan.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I am so excited for this year, I have never been this excited before. Defensively, offensively, I know you have to put it all together and still play the game of softball, but I'm super excited for them."

The plan will have to be carried out without five seniors lost to graduation, including pitcher Abby
Jones, cleanup hitter Paige Schweitzer and leadoff hitter Sarah Dobitz, who is continuing her playing career at Dickinson State.

The Midgets do have a number of returners at their disposal, including outfielder Bailey Jahner, second baseman Kayla Friske, pitcher Amber Sickler and All-State catcher Jordie McNeilly. The four seniors are the only players who have played under Mickey during her entire tenure at Dickinson.

"We have a lot of kids that are coming up that going to fill their shoes just fine and take on the roles that they left for them. They made them better players," Mickey said. "This is my fourth season and I started with four freshmen my first year and now they are seniors, so it's kind of cool to see them grow to the athletes that they are. They are great individuals and awesome kids."

McNeilly, who is signed to play softball at Minnesota State University-Moorhead, has been selected to the All-Conference team three times, the All-State team twice and is coming off a season where she hit .469 with three home runs, six doubles and two triples.

"I just want to improve on getting bat on every ball that I can," McNeilly said. "I'm just going to try and swing hard every time. Obviously, if there's an 0-2 count, I'm just going to try and get a base hit, but pretty much swinging hard is going to be my biggest goal."

McNeilly will have some familiar batterymates along with a couple new pitchers to work with in 2018. Freshman Abbey Kubas and eighth-grader Mataya Mortensen will be a couple of arms joining the staff that includes returners Sickler and junior Madi Eckelberg.

"Amber is one of my best friends so I can always see how her emotions are, even when she's out on the mound. I know her pretty well out there," McNeilly said. "But as far as for Mataya and Abbey coming in, I'm excited to see how they perform and I know they are going to do a lot for us in the circle."

ADVERTISEMENT

Playing in the outfield and at third base, respectively, juniors Kamryn and Kennedy Kuntz will begin their second full season on the varsity squad. With a year under their belt of adapting to the speed and pace of the game at this level, the duo hope to further their contributions this season.

"It's always a big step between junior varsity and varsity, but I thought for all of us who moved up, we did a pretty job of transitioning. We had a pretty good season last and I'm really excited for this year too." Kamryn Kuntz said. "Junior varsity, it's not laid back, but it's a lot different than what varsity is. Varsity is a lot more quicker in everything; for pitching, for hitting, for base-running. It's way more intense I think."

According to Mickey, this Dickinson squad feature depth in multiple positions, which has made for a confident group entering the 2018 campaign. DHS enters the season as the top-ranked team in WDA and the second-ranked team in the state according to a Class A preseason poll.

But even if the Midgets are able to power through the West Region, there is one monster that has reigned over the state for two decades.

West Fargo has won the state championship each of the last 20 years and over the last three seasons, the Midgets have suffered losses to the Packers in the state tournament, which includes a 6-2 defeat in the 2016 state championship game.

"They're tired of losing to West Fargo so we're excited to do big and great things this year," Mickey said. "We just try to get better every single year and I personally think that we have every single season since my first year and my seniors' first year. The bar has been set so high for North Dakota softball these days, everybody is getting better; it's not necessarily that West Fargo is getting any worse or anything. We are finally trying to catch up to them. We know the Johnsons (the coaches) do a great job over there, it's tough to compete with them, but we are doing everything that we can and I think we will be able to this year."

DHS senior pitcher Amber Sickler begins her wind up during last year's season opener against Minot on March 31, 2017 from the Gress Softball Complex. (Press File Photo)
DHS senior pitcher Amber Sickler begins her wind up during last year's season opener against Minot on March 31, 2017 from the Gress Softball Complex. (Press File Photo)

Related Topics: DICKINSON MIDGETSWEST FARGO
What To Read Next
DICKINSON — The Dickinson Midgets basketball teams fell to Western Dakota Association's powerhouse Century Patriots on Tuesday evening. Both the boys and girls varsity teams struggled to keep up with the Patriots' consistent scoring, falling 100-66 and 67-49 respectively.
Clancy Meyer becomes first female varsity wrestler from Dickinson to win on home mat in inaugural season
The Dawgs scored 51 points from beyond the arc in their away match against Grant County Mott-Regent.
Midgets secure 109-72 blowout win against Watford City at home in record-breaking game