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Dickinson tops Sheyenne in Class A state softball semifinals

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FARGO—Dickinson senior Kayla Friske could feel off the bat her hit in the bottom of the fourth of Friday's North Dakota Class A state semifinal against West Fargo Sheyenne was a good one. She hadn't hit a home run all season, so she didn't think it had a chance of being one.

She was wrong.

It flew over the left-center fence at Mickelson Park to put Dickinson up one run on Sheyenne. Dickinson senior Amber Sickler took it from there in the pitcher's circle, holding off Sheyenne for a 3-2 victory.

"I saw it go out and it was the best feeling ever," Friske said. "I was just trying to get a base hit because we really needed some momentum to get going, so we could score some more runs. I saw a good pitch and tried to get my bat on it as best as I could and it just happened to go out."

Dickinson (27-2) took the one-run lead into the top of the seventh. Sheyenne (14-11) opened with a single from Ali Schmidt. Katlyn Suess popped out behind home plate in the next at-bat, but pinch runner Alexis Burke tagged up from first. She looked to be out by a mile, but the perfect throw was dropped and Burke slid into second safely. Danika Balvik grounded out to get Burke to third. Dickinson intentionally walked East Region senior athlete of the year Shay Weber and Sickler got Mya Lambert to ground out on the first pitch to send Dickinson to the state championship game.

"I knew my team had my back. I wasn't worried," Sickler said. "I knew if she was going to hit it they were going to make the play."

Maddie Buchert opened the scoring, coming through with a two-out, two-run single in the top of the first to put Sheyenne up 2-0. Sickler did not give up a run from there, pitching all seven innings, giving up seven hits and one walk, while striking out seven.

"We had better defense today than yesterday and I think that helped us a lot," Sickler said. "Our hitting was better yesterday, so tomorrow we have to have both."

Dickinson cut the lead in half in the bottom of the first, opening the inning with back-to-back doubles from Mataya Mortensen and Kennedy Kuntz. Dickinson opened the first with three straight hits before Kiley Washnieski was brought in to pitch for Sheyenne.

"We're just making some strides," Sheyenne coach Mark Woodbury. "We're a second-year varsity program. We're setting expectations now that we want to carry on in the future, next year, the year after and the year after. We just went out and played as hard as we could and some people stepped up today, but it just wasn't enough against a very good, fundamentally strong Dickinson team. We gave it our best shot."

Both pitchers and defenses held the score at 2-1 before Friske picked a good time to hit her first homer this season.

"She's been earning her way in this lineup and she's done a heck of a job this tournament, showing us she's here to go out with a bang as a senior and do big things for our team," Dickinson coach Amanda Mickey said. "We're just out here trying to have fun. We've worked so hard to get to this point in the year and we're here, so let's go have some fun tomorrow."

Friske remembers being on the team in 2015 and 2016 when Dickinson lost in the state championship to West Fargo. She helped get Dickinson back to the state championship and she's looking to go out a champion. The title game is set for 3 p.m. Saturday.

"I think we just need to not be so nervous and just play our game because I know that we are the best team in the state," Friske said. "If we play our game then we'll take home the championship."

WFS 200 000 0--2 7 2

D 100 200 x--3 8 3

Lambert, Washnieski (1) and Mathews. Sickler and McNeilly. W--Sickler. L--Washnieski. HR--D, Friske.