Des Lacs-Burlington/Lewis & Clark
The Lakes of Des Lakes-Burlington/Lewis & Clark have gotten the closest to winning a title for the west. In fact, they remain the only team from the west to advance to a state title game. They are coming off of a third place finish at the 2019 state tournament and bring back a ton of talent.
It starts with senior hurler Erica Hermanson, who has been a mainstay in the varsity circle since middle school. We have Erica as a state-wide senior to watch. We also have an eye on a pair of junior cousins in Brooklyn and Brynley Benno. Bryn Benno has been all-state each of the past two seasons, while Hermanson has four all-state selections dating back to her eighth grade season.
Heart River had a pre-state tournament run for the ages in 2019. They were a whopping 25-1 prior to the state tournament. Unfortunately, they were unable to make a deep tournament run in Fargo.
The good news is that the Cougars have been a regular state tournament entrant ever since Abby Kessel burst onto the scene. She already has three all-state selections to her name and she has pitched a vast majority of the innings for Heart River the past three seasons. Six-foot tall catcher Taylar Fagerberg was all-west region as a freshman and is primed to be a vital cog as a sophomore.
When Olivia and Emma Passa moved from playing at Bishop Ryan to playing at Velva-Drake/Anamoose, things changed a bit. Passa had a monster season as a junior. So impressive that the previous sentence is a wild understatement. Olivia, the younger of the two Passas also played a big role in a state tournament run.
The wildest state of 2019 is that Heart River beat Velva-Drake/Anamoose five times during the season. there is no doubt VDA would like a chance to redeem themselves for that in 2020.
A wild state quarterfinal game against Hillsboro-Central Valley eventually went to the Burros last season, leaving the Velva-Drake/Anamoose group with a sour taste in their mouths. This group is chomping at the bit to get a start on the 2020 season.
Bishop Ryan has remained very consistent since their program was installed. They get to the state tournament every year. They had two close called with West Fargo in title games as a Class A team. Since re-classifying down to B, Bishop Ryan has continued to make state tournament trips but has not been able to take home the ultimate prize.
Head coach Alec Grothe was the west coach for Class B in the SCHEELS Softball All-Star Series in 2019. He has proven to coach a fundamental bunch that can compete with anyone on any given day. The biggest question for the Lions will be in the circle after the graduation of standout and 2019 all-star Sidney Lovelace. They also lost 2019 all-star Sealy Rovig to graduation. Catcher Grace Candrian is back as an anchor in 2020.
The biggest key in fastpitch softball is pitching. Solid, experienced pitching can make up for holes on a team or a lack of depth. What happens when you have someone that can pitch, catch and play shortstop? A Jill of all trades, so to speak. Well, hopefully for MLS, that provides some confidence in the form of Janie Savelkoul.
MLS had a nice season in 2019 that included some quality wins. The team will look to build on that in 2020 under former Minot State University head coach Bill Triplett.
The race for the senior athlete of the year in the west will be a tight one. There are some tremendous options highlighted by Erica Hermanson, Abby Kessel and Emma Passa. Ultimately, it'll likely be Erica Hermanson who takes home the honors thanks to her tremendous, lengthy career at the premier program in the west.
1. Des Lacs-Burlington/Lewis & Clark
2. Bishop Ryan
9. Divide County
1. Heart River
6. Central McLean
7. Harvey/Wells County
Des Lacs-Burlington/Lewis & Clark - 63%
Heart River - 26%
Velva-Drake/Anamoose - 9%
Other - 3%