Despite the loss, there are 'no complaints' from the Firebirds in their finish against Thompson
The high school softball scene in North Dakota isn't the biggest one. There is a Class A and a Class B like most sports around the state, but in a smaller athletic community, a good team is a good team anywhere. So when Thompson came to town, one of the dominant programs in Class B, the Firebirds coaching staff knew they were going to get a challenge early on in the season.
However, to Firebirds head coach Courtney Loegering, her team didn't know where the Tommies were in relation to standings and rankings until she had told them after the game. So for five innings, the Firebirds weren't intimidated by numbers or stats only two games into the season.
"I waited to the end of the game to tell the girls where they [Thompson] were ranked and where they were at, and then they were like 'oh really'," Loegering said. "It made them feel better that they held their own. Just the fact that we were able to make certain plays and put the ball in play offensively helped them realize that we can do this again."
While it wasn't the result the Firebirds were hoping for, falling No. 3 Thompson 20-4, they aren't hanging their heads or beating themselves up. In fact, they are taking a handful of positives out of the game, specifically on offense.
"The score defiantly didn't go our way, but we had some positive areas," Loegering said. "We played on Tuesday and we played a lot better today. Defensively, we had some really good things and we a lot to learn from. Thompson is a really good program and I have no complaints. Obviously, I wish it would go our way a little bit, but I thought we played pretty well and we know what we have to work on tomorrow."
The Firebirds were connecting with the ball, but were struggling to pull everyone on base in, but did latch on to some momentum in the third inning. After a long three innings in the circle, junior pitcher Genna Fee would find the spark she needed, blasting a long single out to the center field wall, a few feet from going over.
Two batters later, junior outfielder Rebekah Widmer would make most of a long single from freshman in-fielder Savanna Lebrun to steal third and home, tacking on the fourth score of the day for Devils Lake. It was a boost not only the team looked to capitalize off of, but Fee as well on the mound.
"That definitely picked her up," Loegering said. "One of the first things she asked was if she could go back in and hit, but it was all dependent on the way the game would go. She was up on the offensive side and on the defensive side, she was a little letdown. She was pitching really well, but they are just a good program and they were hitting...it defiantly had her adrenaline going."
The circle was a revolving door for the Firebirds as they are looking to get all of their pitchers some action early on in the season and find where each pitch fits into the progress of the game. After four innings, Fee would be relieved by senior pitcher Kaytlin Skadsem.
However, one of the bigger surprises of the game came from freshman pitcher Calin Boline in her closing efforts. After Skadsem would walk five straight Tommie batters in the fifth inning, Boline would come in to pitch to strikeouts to close out the defensive game for the Firebirds. Loegering said that she had put Boline in mainly to get some experience in the circle.
"I just wanted her to get in and get the experience, honestly," Loegering said. "She's never played varsity, and for her to come out and her first batter to be a strikeout is going to build a lot of confidence for her. It made the rest of the team realize that we can rely on that and have that."
According to Loegering, this is one of the few years where Devils Lake has more than one option in the circle. The Firebirds have three main pitchers in their bullpen, but have freshman outfielder/pitcher Callie Schneider and junior in-fielder/pitcher Aisha Ironhawk ready to go if needed. Right now Devils Lake is still figuring out spots, and if Boline will stay in as a close or move somewhere else.
The Firebirds weren't disappointed in their overall performance, but they know that there are some areas that they want to clean up on before heading into their next game against Turtle Mountain on the road next Thursday. Loegering said a lot of it comes down to getting more experience and settling into the game quicker.
"Physically, they are able to make the plays and it's just about the knowing situations and where to go with the ball," Loegering said. "I think that's just something we're going to break down. We meet in the classroom and do a lot of work, and I think that helps. That was a big improvement from the first game."
Continuing to emphasize their offensive game, and upping their defensive game, the Firebirds are focused on staying on their normal grind, but pushing a little more urgency on offense early on. Loegering said if they can lean on their scoring early, their defense will be able to follow suit.
"I think we just need to do what we've been doing," Loegering said. "Starting off slow is something we struggle with and throughout the game is when we start picking up on our bats. If we can work on that, which is something we worked on in the off-season and these last few weeks, and get up on the score above our opponent, things will follow through and they'll calm down a little bit. Offensive we can definitely pick up and help the defense."