Hi-Liner softball team ends season at EDC tourney

WEST FARGO — The Valley City High School softball team set its sights high this season. Returning eight starters from last year, the Hi-Liners were determined to make their second consecutive trip to the state tournament. Those hopes were dashed in a 3-2 loss Saturday to Devils Lake in a state qualifying game at the first Eastern Dakota Conference softball tournament in West Fargo. "It's really hard," said senior Jenna Coghlan. "Last year we were in a position where we had to win or go home and we won it. "It's a letdown." The Hi-Liners opened the tournament with a 5-1 win over Red River Thursday, but lost 10-0 to West Fargo Friday and were eliminated Saturday. It was the third game this season between the teams, the first two of which Valley City won. Devils Lake got the one with the most importance. The Firebirds scored one run in each of the first two innings to get a lead, then never let it go and limited the Hi-Liners to three hits. The Hi-Liners didn’t put runs on the board until they were already trailing 3-0. "We just could never quite get the ball to go where it needed to go," said Valley City coach Jason Lindgren. "We had a lot of contact but everything was right at somebody." The team's key offense came from outfielder Jessica Denholm, who led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a double to left field. She later scored on a single by Dierra Diegel. In the sixth, Brooke Breckheimer reached on a single with one out, but couldn't score. Denholm then led off again in the bottom of the seventh and reached on an error. She stole second and eventually scored on a single by Diegel. Diegel finished the game at first basewhen Paula Andel struck out to end the game. The loss followed a 10-0 loss to West Fargo Friday, in which the team was down only 3-0 entering the fifth inning, but then allowed seven runs in the fifth. Despite the loss, Lindgren was pleased with how the season went, especially given that the team was unsure of who would step into the top pitcher's role. It was a question that altered the lineup depending on the answer. "We didn't know what we were going to do starting the season," Lindgren said. "I didn't know who was going to step up and be that number one pitcher. Keely (Fogarty) did that and she did it well. "She gave us a lot of opportunities and we probably won a lot more games than people were expecting." The Hi-Liners finished fifth in the EDC standings, only because of a loss to Red River in the opening game of the season, but were tight in the race for third. Coghlan had bittersweet feelings about the ending, especially given that she was the last remaining member of the original VCHS softball team. "I've been here all through the building process and last year, when we went to state, it was so great," she said. "We still had a great season, there's nothing to take away from it, it just sucks it had to end like this."