This year Jody Norstedt takes over the North Dakota High school power rankings. Here's his first installment of the season. Let @NorstedtMidcoSN what you think on twitter.
ND Class A Baseball
2. West Fargo
3. Fargo Davies
4. Bismarck Century
5. WF Sheyenne
Dickinson – There’s no surprise at number one. The Midgets are the defending Class A state champions and despite graduating all-state selection Michael McChesney, a talented group of players return for head coach Pete Dobitz. Senior shortstop/pitcher Lucas Jones was an all-state selection last year and third baseman/pitcher Cameron Jorda was an all-region choice as a junior. With those two in the middle of the lineup and leading the pitching staff, along with Tanner Ouellette, the potential for another championship run is strong.
West Fargo – You can almost put the Packers in the top five every year. Even after the addition of a second varsity team in the city, the program continues to thrive. Last year, the Packers finished 24-11 (15-5 EDC) and earned a fourth place finish at state. Brett Peterson’s team returns 8 starters off of last year’s team including standouts like Jake Faircloth (.407 BA in 2016), Parker Borg, Drake Flesche and Andy Gravdahl. The switch to metal bats this season will make things tougher on pitchers across the state, but the Packers believe they have better depth at that position than most teams. Peterson says, “I think if our pitching staff continues to progress as we did last year and if we can get consistent, competitive at-bats we will have a chance to be really successful this season.”
Fargo Davies – The EDC will be competitive and the Eagles look to be right in the mix of the top teams in the conference following a 5th place finish at state last spring. “We were pretty young last season and gained a ton of experience”, says head coach Hans Anderson. “We have a good blend of returners and new guys on the roster to keep pushing each other each day.” Key returners include Cole Birch, Jimmy Reynolds, Luke Devries and Taylor Parrett. Reynolds boasted a .400 batting average last season and will be one of the hitting leaders on this really talented offensive team. Parrett, a junior, had some electric stuff on the mound last season. He finished the year with a 7-1 record to go with a 3.02 ERA and 27 strikeouts.
Bismarck Century – The Patriots won a state-best 31 games last season and won the WDA regular season and postseason titles before settling for 3rd place in the state tournament. The Patriots will look a little different than years past without the services of star pitcher Dalton Feeney, who’s a freshman for the North Carolina State baseball team this spring. 2016 all-conference selections Ian McDonald and Alex Jacob lead the way for a team trying to keep up this recent run of successful Patriots teams. McDonald drove in 26 runs last season with a .371 batting average. Head coach Kent Schweigert is excited for the season to start, “We think we will be a real good defensive team and look to produce some runs. The pitching staff will take some time to be put together.”
West Fargo Sheyenne – The Mustangs didn’t just make noise in their first season as a varsity program last spring, they hit a home run by winning the EDC tournament and reaching the state championship game. Andrew Enno was the hero in the EDC championship game when he hit a home run in the 7th inning to defeat Davies 1-0. The Mustangs offense should produce plenty of runs, Enno batted .340 last season and all-conference selection Denver Blinn ranked among the best in the state with his .400 batting average a year ago. Hayden Reynolds adds some pop to a lineup that returns six of its top nine hitters from 2016. Senior Brady Beyl is expected to be one of the team’s top pitchers. Blinn says, “Our goal is to be state champs and anything less is not enough for us.”
North – The Spartans return some of the top hitters in the conference last year in Chandler Ibach, Matt Pietsch and Cameron Blazek. All 14 players on the varsity roster this year have varsity experience. Head Coach Jeff Fiechtner says, “We have the ability to go into the postseason a ways this year.”
Shanley – The Deacons finished 14-16 last season and return 7 starters from a year ago. Senior Luke Sandy is great at the plate and on the mound, but depth will be the key for the Deacons.
Minot – The Magicians return some great athletes for their lineup including: Garrett Larson, Creighton Rudolph, Carson Tonini, and Easton Bennett. Like most teams, pitching will need to be a strength in order for Minot to make a strong postseason run.
Williston – The Coyotes placed fifth at state last season. Head coach Aaron Finders will lean on seniors like George Callan and Tate Ferrell to us their state tournament experience from last season to motivate the younger players.
ND Class A Softball
1. West Fargo
3. Valley City
4. Bismarck Century
West Fargo – The Packers dynasty continues to roll along. West Fargo has claimed 19 consecutive state championships including last year when they defeated Dickinson 6-2 in the championship. The formula for success remains the same for longtime head coach Pat Johnson who says the team needs to, “keep getting better every day and to be consistent in our play.” The Dullum sister battery of pitcher Stephi and catcher Sami returns to spearhead a roster that looks poised to win a 20th state championship in a row. Gabby DuBois and Sami Dullum are the hitters that will carry the lineup.
Dickinson – The Midgets are fresh off a 33-win season that included the program’s first regular season WDA championship and a runner-up finish to West Fargo in the state championship game. Replacing senior athlete of the year Madison Jahner will be no easy task, she was a shutout machine on the mound last season. But, reigning ND coach of the year Amanda Mickey does return a pair of senior leaders in Paige Schweitzer and Sarah Dobitz. Schweitzer hit .383 with 12 RBI last season, while Dobitz hit .444, driving in 27 runs. Junior catcher Jordie McNeilly is back after a stellar sophomore campaign in which she hit .480, leading the team in both hits (60) and RBI (45). Center fielder Julie Knight is also one to watch after hitting .446 with two home runs and 39 RBI in 121 at bats last season.
Valley City – The Hi-Liners have just three seniors on the roster Maren Horner, Jayda Haugen, and Emily Murray. But, head coach Jason Lindgren always seems to get his team playing like a bunch of veterans by season’s end. Valley City won 20 games last season and finished 3rd at the state tournament by defeating Shanley/Oak Grove in the final game of the year 8-2. The Hi-Liners will try to make up for the loss of graduated 2016 EDC Senior Athlete of the Year Tarryn Justesen with a trio of returning all-EDC selections in Haugen, Mackenzie Pederson and Kacee White.
Century – The Patriots might be the wildcard of the state. Their roster is young and I mean really young. It features no seniors, three juniors, one sophomore, four freshmen and four eighth-graders. Their returning ace of the pitching staff is one of those eighth-graders, Madison Zander. In her first start of the season, Zander allowed three unearned runs on three hits and a walk in the first inning, but threw a one-hit shutout over the next four innings to help Century top Bismarck 13-3. Freshman Miah Rauhauser brings power to the plate, she went 5-for-7 in the opening day doubleheader with a pair of home runs. Expect the Patriots to make noise not only this year, but for years to come.
Minot – The Majettes are hoping to accomplish a “first” for the program this year and make their debut in the state tournament. Gerard Cederstrom’s squad came close last year, but their 26-win season ended in a state qualifier contest and a 4-1 loss to crosstown rival Bishop Ryan. Minot will rely on its sisterly pitching duo of Marisa Andrysiak, a junior, and Jenna Andrysiak, a freshman. The Majettes are confident in their pitching and defense, but hitting will be the difference of whether they can achieve that goal of being among the final eight teams playing at the state tournament in Mandan.
Bishop Ryan – It may be only a matter of time before Bishop Ryan is in the top five. The Lions need to replace all-state infielder Sheyenne Schmidt, but she was the only starter to graduate off last year’s team. That means this will be one of the most experienced groups in the state led by all-state senior pitcher Emma Garber and senior catcher Hailee Jundt. The Lions have made the state tournament every year since softball became sanctioned in North Dakota back in 2009.
Bismarck – Demons head coach Kurt Grensteiner knows the key area for his team, “We have to have consistent pitching.” BHS finished 5th at state last year after winning 25 games. NDSU commit Jaime Barta holds several records for the program and her teammate Emma Steckler is the team’s top pitcher and a great hitter.
Shanley/Oak Grove – The Deacons finished in 4th place at state last year and return all-conference selection Elena Linster, Taylor Erholtz, Ingrid Swanson and Gabby Nelson. Head Coach Becca Conant says, “Confidence and game experience will be important for us with possibly 2-3 freshmen and an 8th grader starting in key positions. The leadership of our returning players will be key to our success.”
North – The Spartans won just 9 games last season, but managed to qualify for the state tournament. They lack varsity experience, but senior pitcher/infielder Sami Trana will be one of the top players in the state this season.
Bismarck Legacy – The Sabres were 13-19 last season, but will have their first senior class. Head coach Paige Nustad says, “We are looking to be successful in the state tournament this year. We have all of our returning starters with a senior class. These girls have been playing together for 4 years now. We are looking forward to being aggressive on the bases and making the plays.” Kailey Weigel, Megan Fields, Whitney Thomas and Courtney Hanson will be the top hitters on this squad.
ND Class B Baseball
5. Park River-Fordville-Lankin
Thompson – The Tommies are the pre-season favorite to repeat as Class B state champions. They return 13 players from last year’s team, including seniors Calen Schwabe and Brett Sutter-Hegg who have been in the Tommies lineup since their middle school days. Schwabe, a first team all-state selection, hit .453 last year and drove in 34 runs, while Sutter-Hegg hit .390 with 18 RBI. Sophomore Cadyn Schwabe hit .554 and scored a team-high 28 runs in 2016. Head coach Brady Schwab tells me that experience will be a strength, but says his team “needs more consistency on the mound.” Not only does this group have experience, but they have championship experience having won state titles in football and baseball over the past year.
Carrington – Every team wants pitching depth and Carrington has it. The Cardinals only graduated one senior from last year’s pitching staff and that was Brett Lyman. Junior Jayden Shipman, sophomore Kyle Leapaldt, sophomore Lucas Geiszler and senior Braxton Hewitt will be the anchors on the mound this year for head coach Wayne Shipman. “We have four pitchers who we feel can do a good job for us. We will also need to have good situational hitting and have some players step in, in place of last year’s departed seniors”, says Shipman. Carrington’s team ERA was an impressive 2.11 last season. Hewitt was also one of the top hitters on the team last year with a .371 batting average, 25 RBI and 19 stolen bases. Carrington finished the year 22-2 last year and earned a third place finish at state. Those results are tough to top, but this group might be able to do it.
Beulah – The Miners graduated a lot from last year’s state runner-up team, but this is a program that reloads instead of rebuilding. The offense will be sparked by Brayden Nelson who hit .377 as a junior and tossed a pair of perfect games. He’ll play college baseball at Bismarck State College. Head coach Bob Koch has six seniors on the roster and is hoping past success motivates this group to do the same. Plus, they have some nice looking new uniforms that you can check out on their twitter handle @BeulahBaseball!
Kindred/Richland – The Vikings came up short in their bid for a state tournament berth a year ago, falling to Northern Cass 4-2 in 8 innings in the decisive game three in the Region 1 final. This year, the Vikings return 8 of 9 starters including all of their pitchers from last season. Head coach Scott Milbrandt says, “We have a lot of experience coming back from last season and our strength will be our pitching and defense. We will also need to put pressure on (our opponent’s) defense.” Ethan Lingen had a sensational year at the plate last season with a .500 batting average, 24 RBI and 24 runs scored. Other top hitters include: Zach Cossette (.423 BA, 25 RBI), Josh Dura (.400 BA, 27 RBI, 26 runs), Evan Waskom (.431 BA, 21 RBI) and Brandon Roesler (.375 BA, 18 RBI, 27 runs). Lingen (1.40 ERA) and Roesler (1.77 ERA) also combined for a 10-2 record on the mound. This Vikings team is poised for a big year.
Park River-Fordville-Lankin - The Aggies reached state as the champs of region 4 last season and ended up with a fourth place finish at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo. Jackson Hankey returns for his senior season after batting .450 last season with over 25 RBI as a junior. Jacob Erovick, Adam Zavalney, Steven Thompson and Landon Wood will be the other key contributors if the Aggies want to make a run at another state tournament appearance.
Northern Cass: The reigning region 1 champions return 4 starters from a team that finished 5th at state in 2016. Seniors Nick Nelson, Brendon Salander, Ethan Slinger and Tanner Leahy are back along with Logan Nelson who started some games on the mound. When asked about his team’s strengths, head coach Ron Leraas said, “Great senior leadership, these guys have great character and know how to do things right.”
Larimore: Polar Bears finished runner-up to eventual state champ Thompson in region 2. Monty Hendrickson was named 2nd team all-state last year after hitting .417 and going 6-2 with a 3.44 ERA on the mound. All-region pick Jacob Tupa returns too, after posting a 2-0 record with a 3.36 ERA to compliment his .384 batting average. The keys for head coach Ben Jacobson are: 1) Stay healthy 2) Pitchers to pitch to their abilities 3) Couple of inexperienced players need to step up and play key roles
Grafton: The Spoilers were 17-8 last season, but were denied a trip to state by Park River-Fordville-Lankin in the region 4 championship. Grafton should be a contender again this year though.
Central Cass: Senior Michael Ueland hit over .500 last year and drove in 18 runs, while Andrew Jahnke batted just under .500 and also drove in 18 runs. Those two along with Bryce Giermann will anchor the pitching staff for the Squirrels who finished 16-6 last season.