The 2020 SCHEELS Softball All-Star Series would be the fourth go around and there is almost no doubt that it would be the most difficult year to establish a roster because this senior class is loaded. In the same vein, it was a challenge to highlight just five seniors to watch, but we took a shot anyway! Here's one from each region and one "wild card" to add to the fun.
It isn't too often that a North Dakota softball player has gone on to play Division I softball. You've got players like Jaime Barta (NDSU, Syracuse) and Courtney Johnson (NDSU). You can add West Fargo standout Mariah Peters to the list. She committed to the University of North Dakota when she was just a junior. That makes Peters the first North Dakotan to join the Fighting Hawks since Catherine Dorsher (2012-15).
West Fargo is the long-time leader in North Dakota high school softball with 21 titles in 22 years. They have churned out countless star players and Mariah is one of them. It will be fun to see what the UND commit can do in her final hurrah.
The Central Cass Squirrels are perennial contenders. In fact, only three teams have won Class B titles in Centra Cass, Kindred-Richland and Enderlin-Maple Valley. Isabelle Linnard has been part of that winning tradition. It feels like she has been the catcher for Central Cass for a decade.
She is a strong catcher that is solid defensively with a strong arm. She also is familiar with the long ball and is a doubles machine. In fact, she was blasting big time home runs in the state tournament as a sophomore. With a little bit less experienced pitching staff this year with Payton Richter and Lexi Buhr graduating, Linnard will be looked to for further development and an experience voice.
Maddi Grad might be the most terrifying senior in the state with a bat in her hand. Last year she was hitting .520 with 50 RBI and 15 home runs heading into the state tournament. And it's not like you an just pitch around her because the Century Patriots have plenty of other offense.
Two years ago in the state tournament, she blasted two 3-run home runs in an 8-6 loss to Minot, the eventual state champion.
Not only is she a terror with the bat, she is also a fantastic defensive catcher.
Picking a top senior from the west region in Class B is no easy task. That's probably why we identified two. Let's start with longtime Des Lacs-Burlington/Lewis & Clark starting pitcher Erica Hermanson. She is a smaller pitcher, but has been a dominant force for her club since she was in middle school.
Hermanson helped lead the 2018 DLBLC club to a state title game appearance. It was the first time that a west team had reached the Class B title game. It would be a joy to see Hermanson and DLBLC take another run at the first Class B title for the west in 2020.
Hermanson is committed to play college ball at Minot State University.
Abby Kessel helped Heart River burst onto the scene a few years ago when they made it to the state tournament and she got to show off her right arm. When she was in 8th grade, she got the final out of the state qualifying game and she has never looked back. She blasted her first home run against Beulah and is looking for more in 2020.
Kessel and hear teammates would love another shot at a state tournament run in 2020. Kessel is committed to play college ball at Mayville State University.