After a one year hiatus from winnings state titles, the West Fargo Packers were back at it with another title run in 2019. The team was led in the circle by Courtney Boll, who was outstanding for much of the postseason. Boll and teammate Lauren Diemert were both all-stars following their senior campaigns and have moved onto college. There is no doubt - the Packers lost plenty to graduation.
They also return plenty. Tori Nichols-Kraft (Minnesota-Morris commit) has plenty of varsity pitching experience and blasted the game-winning home run in the EDC title game against Valley City. Sophie Ochocki delivered a game-winning hit in the state championship as a freshman. Jadyn Iverson is expected to get more playing time this season. She blasted the game-tying home run in the 2019 title game vs. Bismarck. Mariah Peters, a University of North Dakota commit, returns for her senior season. Macy Weible is committed to play college ball at Wisconsin Lutheran College. Ashlyn Diemert is back, too.
Oh, and head coach Pat Johnson returns for a 23rd season in search of his 22nd title.
The Valley City Hi-Liners had their best season in 2019. They lost a tight EDC championship game to West Fargo and eventually finished third at the state tournament. Bismarck knocked them out of title contention in a wild 8-7 game in the semi-finals. Valley City, much like West Fargo, graduated some key players in power hitter Becca Thompson and speedster Grace Scherr.
The Hi Liners have a chance because of what they return in the circle. Junior Hailey Schaefer was absolutely dominant for much of the 2019 season. In an outing against Fargo Davies, she struck out 18 batters en route to a victory. Schaefer also has the ability to punish the ball at the plate. The Hi-Liner's style of play puts a lot of pressure on teams. They have the speed to put opponents on edge from the first pitch of the game.
Valley City also has some unfinished business after close losses in the EDC title game and state semi-final game last season.
The Fargo North Spartans had an up and down year in 2019, but were still a state participant and they competed well at the tournament out in Minot, despite dropping both games. The Spartans graduated long-time middle of the order bat in Taya Opheim, as well as long-time center fielder Greta Rehder. They did not, however, graduate any pitching.
And it is pitching that will determine the fate of their 2020 season. Now senior Gabi Olek had a tremendous sophomore season in the circle, while now junior Ava Kalbrener was outstanding with the ball last year. If both of them can be at their peak in 2020, that'll make the Spartans dangerous. North doesn't have a ton in the way of depth, but the core group of seniors and a couple of juniors have had a ton of varsity playing time.
North has a different head coach for the third time in as many seasons with Taylor Moore taking over the reins.
The Shanley Deacons were a year or two ahead in their first year under new coach Vance Christianson. The team played out the regular season to a four seed in the EDC tournament before dropping a state qualifier to Sheyenne. The big, obvious loss is long-time first baseman Gabby Nelson, who plays ball at St. Cloud State now.
The good news is that the team actively built depth in 2019. Senior hurler Calli Schanzenbach had a really strong junior season. Her younger sister Crysta had a strong 2019 season, playing more infield than her historic time in the outfield.
Expect Shanley to still be very competitive with Christianson in year two.
The Fargo Davies Eagles have a new sheriff in town. Fargo North grad and former NDSU player Courtney Johnson will take over as a first year head coach in 2020. Now, the Eagles have struggled the past few seasons in the win column, but they have certainly shown flashes of competitiveness.
The returning battery has to have coach Johnson excited. Spenser Mohr is one of the state's best behind the plate with her glove, arm and bat. In the circle, Jenna Leingang picked up a ton of experience last season and over the summer. Alonna Narum is also expected to be back after missing the 2019 season with injury.
Our prediction for senior athlete of the year is West Fargo standout Mariah Peters. This is a deep senior class, but there hasn't been a long line of history sending North Dakota high school players to Division I colleges. Peters is committed to the University of North Dakota and has had a strong career at West Fargo. That's likely enough to make her the senior athlete of the year in 2020.
1. West Fargo
2. Valley City
3. Fargo North
4. Fargo Shanley
5. Fargo Davies
6. Grand Forks Red River
7. Fargo South
9. Grand Forks Central
10. Devils Lake
West Fargo - 63%
Valley City - 22%
Fargo North - 10%
Other - 5%