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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Anthony Varriano photo

Lady Devils qualify for State with drubbing of Billings Central

“I usually say a little bit of a prayer when I’m up there because I freak out and then calm myself down. I was so anxious when I was up there ... I kind of cried when I was coming home,” Lady Devil Syrell Dufner on hitting her first career home run, which was a grand slam.

By Anthony Varriano

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

The Dawson County High School softball team looked like the top seed in the East at the Divisional Tournament at Stewart Park in Billings on Thursday afternoon.

Lady Devils 11, 

Billings Central 0

Junior Carrie Nagle pitched yet another shutout, allowing just three hits and one hit batter while striking out five over five innings of a mercy-rule semifinal against the Billings Central Lady Rams. The win qualified Dawson for State.

The Lady Devils did their damage in the second and fourth innings. Senior catcher Samantha Egan got it started with a single in the second, and Nagle reached on an error before Cheyenne Ryan singled to left. 

Junior Syrell Dufner dropped a flare behind third base to drive in a run. Another dying quail fell in behind second base for classmate Kenna Begger, and Billings made a couple of bad throws that allowed two runs to score, making it 5-0 Dawson. DCHS head coach Todd Naasz kept his baserunners aggressive coaching third base, as he has all year.

Junior Wyniah Mintz walked to start the fourth, and classmate Averie Skillestad was hit by pitch before senior Lexi Pettersen singled to load the bases. Billings nearly got out of the jam, getting two outs at home before Ryan almost added two runs, driving a ball just foul down the third baseline. She’d take a pitch, and drive the next one just inside the third baseline for a two-RBI double that made it 7-0. 

Then the Lady Devils circled the wagons and loaded the bases again for Dufner, who hit the first homer of her career — a line-drive grand slam over the center field wall.

Naasz said Dufner has come close to a roundtripper, hitting the fence multiple times, and just told her to “find one she could drive.”

“She’s got good power. She just doesn’t get a lot of balls up in the air,” Naasz said.

Dufner thought it would be caught in center, but she got just enough air under it and calmed her nerves with a little prayer.

“I usually say a little bit of a prayer when I’m up there because I freak out and then calm myself down,” she said. “I was so anxious when I was up there …I kinda cried when I was coming home.”

Dufner’s grand slam gave the DCHS girls a few innings off, as Nagle got out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom half of the fifth to end it.

The Lady Devils have a great opportunity to win Divisionals for the first time in program history, as Naasz couldn’t remember the last time softball won a trophy, adding that the program has only been around for about 20 years.

The State A Softball Tournament starts this Thursday in Belgrade. 

Reach Anthony Varriano at rrsports@rangerreview.com.

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