Firebirds lose last game to West Fargo, but remain in high spirits for postseason
By Sam Herder
Journal Sports Editor
The Devils Lake softball team got an early scouting report of their first round opponent in the East Region Tournament. DL faced West Fargo in its last regular season game Friday, the same opponent it’ll face at noon Thursday in Fargo.
West Fargo won 8-1, but DL hung tough behind pitcher Hannah Pesek, who threw four scoreless innings.
But Packers pitcher Stephanie Dullum was on a roll. She struck out 16 batters and gave up five hits. DL’s lone run came in the fourth inning when Krista Waldo and Alysha Moser hit back-to-back extra-base hits to right field.
West Fargo scored multiple runs in the first, fourth and fifth innings.
“Honestly we played awesome,” Firebirds head coach Patrick Neumann said. “We played a great game against them. They’re a very good ball club and that pitcher is legit. We were able to get runners on pretty consistently. We were aggressive at the plate. She threw it hard and we went after it. And we played good defense behind Hannah, who pitched a great game. We have nothing to hang our heads or be disappointed about.”
The Firebirds finish the regular season 3-15 overall with a 3-13 conference record. As the No. 8 seed, they’ll face top-seeded West Fargo again, who is 25-4 overall and 16-0 in the East.
“We know we can play with the best team in the state,” Neumann said. “We played with Minot and they’re one of the better teams in the West. There’s a lot of teams we’ve played tough lately. The girls are in a pretty good mood right now. They know West Fargo is tough and they gave them a match today.”
DL had won three of its last five games heading into Friday, and are gaining confidence.
“Their mindset is good, my mindset is good,” Neumann said. “I think we’re dangerous playing the kind of ball we’re playing. With three wins, that doesn’t reflect our ability and our ability to win ball games.”
The East Region Tournament is a double-elimination format. Teams have to win two before they lose two and the top four teams advance to the state tournament.
Neumann said his team’s focus this week of practice is to make sure the defense continues to be consistently solid behind Pesek. They will also speed up the pitching machine, assuming they will see Dullum again.
Pesek, meanwhile, is also pitching strong for the Firebirds.
“Hannah is really pitching well,” Neumann said. “She gives us a chance every game. She’s spotting her pitches well and is throwing hard. And our bats have been very good. We’ve been hitting the ball well. Between pitching and hitting, we’ve doing really well lately.”
DL’s and West Fargo’s side of the bracket is matched up with No. 4 Fargo Davies and No. 5 Grand Forks Red River. The loser of the two games play at noon Friday while the winners play at 4 p.m. The tournament wraps up on Saturday.
“I’m excited to get to EDC and watch these girls perform,” Neumann said. “We’re peaking and playing some of our best ball. We’re excited to see what the girls can do next weekend.”