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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Lady Devils softball ready to spring into action

By Eric Killelea

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

It is a long road to the Class A Montana Softball Tournament. But that is where the Dawson County High School team found themselves last season and that is where head coach Todd Naasz plans to return in May.

After nearly a month of practice, the Lady Devils are heading into an opening day round robin tournament on Saturday in Miles City. The team, with eight seniors on the roster, is scheduled to test its renewed sense of purpose against Billings Central, Colstrip, Hardin and Huntley Project from Worden. The games run 90 minutes long and winners are determined at the end of that time period. 

Last season, the club won the Eastern A conference 9-1 and placed second in the Eastern A Tournament, before getting a taste of state. At state they lost to Havre 5-4, beat Hamilton 10-5 and lost to Fergus 6-3. Naasz remains proud of the team finishing 19-7 and touts the abilities of recent graduates including catcher Samantha Egan, an Eastern A Divisional selection for second-team all-conference, and All-State infielder Lexi Pettersen, who now hits for Dawson Community College.

But Naasz does not plan to bask in the warmth of last year’s season success, as he sees mass potential in the current team that includes All-State seniors Wyniah Mintz, a switch-hitting shortstop who carried a .481 batting average and led the lineup in doubles and runs, along with ace pitcher Carrie Nagle, who boasted a 14-5 record and 2.97 E.R.A., while batting .420.  

“We should be a favorite this year after only losing two players from last year’s team,” Naasz wrote in email Wednesday. “We will be good hitters and aggressive on the bases. We have good team speed and we have been working our hitting every practice.”

This season, Naasz is joined by assistant coaches Katelyn Cunningham and Shane Mintz. The three have been fine-tuning the team’s hitting and fielding technique and believe the players are ready for lively competition. 

Kenna Begger and Syrell Dufner are among the seniors returning to the outfield after garnering all-conference awards, while senior Cheyenne Ryan replaces her predecessor Egan behind the plate after cutting her teeth playing first base. All three girls posted batting averages over .400 last season.

Taya Torres, Cheyenne Fisher and Averie Skillestad round out the senior class. Sophomore Bailey Pearcy has enough talent to add a solid glove and fast-swinging bat to the mix that, according to Nassz, should help the team compete for the Eastern A title.

Reach Eric Killelea at rrsports@rangerreview.com

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