Rheault dominant in Packers’ victory

When the West Fargo softball team’s bats were uncommonly silent Thursday at South Hill Complex, the Packers relied on ace Brittany Rheault.

The senior right-hander delivered a gem, pitching a compete-game two-hitter in a 2-0 victory over Century to advance West Fargo to the semifinals of the Class A state tournament.

The East Region No. 1 seed Packers (28-1), whose two runs are their fewest of the season, didn’t score until the fifth inning. But Century (13-18), the West Region’s fourth seed, didn’t threaten to score until the final frame.

Rheault faced the minimum through the first six innings, then stranded two runners in the seventh. She struck out 12 – one shy of the single-game tournament record – and walked one.

“The big thing she does is she throws strikes. She throws it where she wants to throw it,” Century coach Kevin Ziegler said. “We had a hard time catching up to the fastball.”

West Fargo coach Pat Johnson was pleased with Rheault’s performance but expects more from her as his team continues its pursuit of a sixth consecutive state title (and 17th including tournaments not sanctioned by the North Dakota High School Activities Association). The Packers face West Region No. 2 seed Dickinson – which defeated Fargo North 8-5 – at 6:30 p.m. today.

“She threw all right,” he said of Rheault, a University of Jamestown commit. “I’m not sure she threw her best yet. I think she’s got her best game still to come.”

Century junior Cassidy Miller kept West Fargo off the board as well as any opposing pitcher all year. The Packers average 10.6 runs per game and hadn’t been held under five runs against any North Dakota opponent.

Said Ziegler: “I told her before the game, ‘Hey, if there’s anybody I want pitching this game, it’s Cassidy Miller.’ She comes through in the big games – she’s done it before. She’s always pitched good against these guys.”

Miller allowed one earned run, four hits, 3 walks and struck out four.

The Packers broke through in the fifth as Rheault singled to left to load the bases and senior Michaela Liebl delivered a two-run single to center. With Rheault on the mound and an error-free defense behind – in 30-mph winds, no less – the 2-0 lead was enough.

“The defense played well,” Johnson said. “That’s what we needed. We needed everybody to come to play. The wind doesn’t help anything. It kind of equalizes everything.”

With just two seniors on the roster, Rheault said she expects her team to play more comfortably throughout the rest of the tourney as younger players settle in.

“With the state tournament, it’s not like anything else,” she said. “There’s a lot more adrenaline. Everybody’s playing their best ball. We’re looking to score runs and play our best. I think we can definitely improve and learn from this game.”

Davies 4, Bismarck 0

Fargo Davies sophomore Carla Binde scattered four hits and struck out two as the Eagles advanced to the semifinals against Bishop Ryan today at 4:30 p.m.

Davies jumped out to a 2-0 lead at the end of the first. Haley Heintzman plated two with two-run double with two outs. She added her third RBI of the contest in the fifth when she singled home Carly Kottsick.

The Eagles tacked on a fourth run in the sixth on an RBI single by Shelby Malmanger, scoring Mercedes Swanson.

Dickinson 8,

Fargo North 5

Dickinson scored three runs apiece in both the first and second innings, taking advantage of four Fargo North errors to advance to the semifinals where it’ll play West Fargo tonight at 6:30 p.m.

The Midgets recorded just four hits, but drew six walks. Rachel Jahner, Madison Jahner and Riana Cooper all scored two runs as all nine batters reached base.

The Spartans scored a run in each of the first five innings, but went without a hit in their final two plate appearances.

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