‘Survive and advance’

Nearly three hours after West Fargo standout pitcher Brittany Rheault delivered a two-hit, complete-game gem, Bishop Ryan junior Hannah Stewart produced a dominant performance of her own.

She tied a Class A state tournament single-game record with 13 strikeouts in the Lions’ 5-2 victory over Shanley on Thursday at South Hill Complex.

The right-handed Stewart pitched three perfect innings as Ryan claimed a lead it never relinquished.

“We only faced West Fargo once this year, and that’s the kind of pitcher (Stewart) is – comparable to Rheault,” Shanley coach Chad Slyter said. “So we don’t see that kind of pitching until now, so it’s tough for us to pick that up right away.”

Stewart went the distance, yielding six hits and no walks.

Ryan (27-2) plays Fargo Davies at 4:30 p.m. today while Shanley (17-9) will meet Bismarck in a consolation semifinal at noon.

Shanley sophomore Molly Schmidt suffered the loss, allowing five runs – three earned – on 10 hits and no walks while striking out three over six innings of work.

The Lions had scored nine-plus runs in 12 of their past 14 games, but never put together their customary big inning.

“We never really got in a true rhythm, but we did put the ball in play and I guess it was enough to win,” Ryan coach Julie Stewart said.

In the top of the first, senior leadoff hitter Maddie Lipp tripled to left and scored two batters later on Hannah Stewart’s RBI single.

“I just try and see as many pitches as I can right off the bat,” said Lipp, who went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. “I just swung and the ball looked big and it flew I guess.”

The next inning, senior third baseman Brieann Backes hit a solo shot to left-center for a 2-0 lead.

“Stewart’s dominant, so if you give her a two-run lead, it’s going to be tough to come back on her. You have to work extra hard,” Slyter said. “Then they can relax and she settles in a little bit.”

Stewart (13-2) struck out six of the first nine batters she faced. The Deacons had more success against her their second time through the order – scraping across a run in the fourth and another in the sixth – but never returned to level pegging.

Senior catcher Marissa Schons and freshman third baseman Taylor Erholtz each went 2-for-3 with an RBI to lead Shanley.

Ryan plated two runs in the fifth as Stewart helped her own cause with an RBI single. She finished the game 3-for-3. Backes, who went 2-for-3, scored on Alex Smith’s sacrifice fly in the sixth.

“You just have to survive and advance and we just gotta keep thanking God for getting us as far as he’s getting us,” Lipp said. “Hopefully he can get us a couple more games.”

Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.