Family ties pave way for Falcons' title
EMV pitcher Kaylee Johnson (9) hugs twin sister Megan as they receive awards following the state title game.
When Maple Valley High School sophomore Abbie Tinjum was younger, she had no intention of joining the Enderlin/Maple Valley softball team, nor did she realize she would become a state champion in the sport.
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â€śI didnâ€™t even want to play at first in eighth grade. I wanted to run track,â€ť Tinjum said.
The difference in getting her on the field was an older sister on the team, who forced her out to a few practices.
â€śOnce I started it, I liked it so much more. Now itâ€™s one of my favorite sports,â€ť Tinjum said.
Itâ€™s a family tie thatâ€™s helped build the program since coach Neva Hamre the program started in Enderlin 2006, two years before the NDHSAA sanctioned the sport.
The program later joined with Maple Valley to create the current co-op.
After seven seasons, Hamreâ€™s squad lacks original players, but instead includes plenty of players, similar to Tinjum, that watched their older sisters play.
Among the legacies is the starting battery. Sophomore twins Kaylee and Megan Johnson â€”the former a pitcher, latter a catcher â€” watched the team since it began.
â€śWeâ€™ve been hanging out with Neva and everybody since our sister has been playing softball, even when they were playing slow pitch,â€ť Kaylee said.
The twins then started playing on the varsity team as seventh graders.
â€śI remember just having to walk to practice because no one would give us a ride,â€ť Kaylee said.
Itâ€™s time around the game that Hamre feels is visible on the field.
One example she noted was in the fifth inning of the championship game when Johnson loaded the bases with one out, but kept her composure and allowed only one run across.
â€śThat was a lot of pressure and she came through,â€ť Hamre said.
Several former players attended the championship game, Hamre said, and the moment gave her a chance to look back on the support the program had in its infancy.
â€śThe parents that started it back then, they could see the future, and I appreciate that they did this,â€ť she said. â€śIâ€™m still amazed that they came and asked me to coach but Iâ€™m really glad they did because itâ€™s been a really good ride.â€ť