For better or worse, the first inning has made the difference for the Valley City High School softball team recently.
Against West Fargo Tuesday, the Hi-Liners struggled out of the gate and couldnâ€™t catch up to the top-ranked Class A team in the state.
But in Thursdayâ€™s 7-4 win over No. 4 Fargo North, it was a different story.
The Hi-Liners opened the game by getting Northâ€™s first three batters out in succession, then came back and scored three of their first five batters to take a 3-0 lead that the team never gave up.
â€śThat was a really solid game all the way through,â€ť Valley City coach Jason Lindgren said. â€śWe put up a couple of crooked numbers (on the scoreboard) right away, then in multiple innings after that. We never gave them a chance to get back in it.â€ť
It wasnâ€™t for a lack of trying on Northâ€™s part, though.
The Spartans, who are in second place in the EDC standings, put together ten hits and had runners on throughout the game, but Valley Cityâ€™s defense stayed strong and avoided high scoring innings.
The closest it got was in the top of the second inning. North centerfielder Morgan Shelton hit a double to right field that was narrowly missed by Jasmine Stevens. She eventually scored on a double to centerfield by Jordan Novacek.
Novacek later scored on a pop-fly error by Madison McDaniel that would have ended the inning.
Valley City went down in order in the bottom of the inning, but came back strong in the third when the first four batters all reached base.
Tangen started it with a single. Dierra Diegel then bunted on and Brooke Breckheimer reached on walk.
Danica Diegel then hit a double to centerfield that scored Tangen and Dierra Diegel.
â€śIâ€™ve talked to Jason (Lindgren) a lot about being a consistent hitter and when I step up to the plate, thereâ€™s no pressure on me and I just need to put the ball in play,â€ť Danica said. â€śIt just ends up that I get a lot of RBI just because we have a lot of baserunners on all the time.â€ť
Fargo North responded with a run in the top of the fourth. Valley City got one more in the bottom of the fifth. Then North had one in the top of the seventh to make it 7-3.
Lindgren was pleased with his defense, which allowed two early errors but held steady in the late innings.
Keely Fogarty pitched a complete game. She allowed ten hits and had three strikeouts.
Lindgren was pleased with her ability to keep her pitch count down as well as the run count. He specifically noted the lack of big innings by North, with only one inning having multiple runs scored in it.