Walking into the Minot High School gymnasium on March 28, there was this aura of optimism and anxiousness to get outside and finally start the 2018 softball season.
The Majettes were coming off the program’s first state tournament appearance since 2009 and had this newly turfed field at the South Hill Softball Complex that they could call home — once the long North Dakota winter finally subsided.
They were hopeful for another promising season. But, there was no way they could have predicted what was going to happen over the next three months. They just wanted to play softball, and preferably not indoors.
The thought of winning a state championship never even came up in that the early season practice.
“My expectations are that we work hard, take care of the fundamentals and do what we are supposed to do,” MHS coach Gerard Cederstrom said at the start of the season. “Then, let’s see what happens.”
The straightforward and diplomatic approach guided the Majettes to a 17-7 overall record in the regular season. Good enough for the No. 2 seed in the West Region tournament. A mercy win over Williston, a sixth-inning collapse against Century and another 10-run win over Legacy pushed Minot High into the state tournament for a second straight season.
For some, that was enough to constitute another successful season. Instead of falling back to old ways, the Majettes were creating a state tournament appearance streak to replace the long drought that came before it.
When I was first introduced to Cederstrom a year and a half ago in the Magic City Campus gymnasium — I was waiting around to interview coach Dean Winczewski and the Magicians after a boys basketball game — we exchanged pleasantries and I asked how the softball team did last year. It was my first year in Minot and I was curious.
Well, my curiosity had inadvertently gashed open an old wound. Years upon years of misfortunes and missed opportunities were summed up with the cherry on top being a 4-1 defeat to Bishop Ryan in the 2016 West Region tournament state qualifier.
In that moment, getting to the state tournament felt like this unattainable target that got harder each year the Majettes didn’t make it. So, when the seven-year curse was lifted last season, it sparked a belief in them that anything was truly possible. And that’s extremely dangerous when given to a team that everybody wants to overlook.
The Majettes entered the state tournament this past weekend as the No. 4-seeded team out of the West Region. They were supposed to lose to East Region No. 1 Valley City in the first round. MHS trailed 3-0 after the first inning following a three-run home run off of senior ace Marisa Andrysiak.
It would have been a devastating conclusion to a phenomenal high school career for Andrysiak, but the Majettes had other plans.
First-year varsity starter Jailee Britt, reliable senior Rylee Terrel and Andrysiak all knocked in RBIs to even the score. One of the many unsung heroes on the team, Cambrie Pretzer, provided the game-winning run on a ground out to lift the Majettes to the semifinals for the first time in program history.
Now, the Majettes were playing with house money against West Region foe Century. Fears of a repeat of the WDA tournament semifinals — a 10-4 Patriots win — were brushed aside, as Minot jumped out to an 8-0 lead and held on for a 8-3 win.
The lowly four seed had made it to the first championship game in school history. The Majettes, however, weren’t done and weren’t going to let a team they hadn’t beaten all last season, Dickinson (27-2), stand in their way of history.
A four-run third inning in the state title game proved to be the difference. Britt scored on an error, steadfast catcher Jaycie Rostad had an infield single to keep the inning alive, Terrel plated two runs with a double and Andrysiak brought in Minot’s final run of the season with an RBI single.
Andrysiak, with her defense behind, did the rest for the 4-2 championship game win.
My words can’t do justice to what the Majettes did this season.
Looking back at where this team was two years ago, this championship really came out of left field.
And despite how odd it might appear, the record book now reads: West Fargo, 2009; West Fargo, 2010; West Fargo, 2011; West Fargo, 2012; West Fargo, 2013; West Fargo, 2014; West Fargo, 2015; West Fargo, 2016; West Fargo, 2017; Minot High, 2018.
It’s an anomaly that will stand out decades from now, and the time will come when people will ask how that even happened.
These Majettes will certainly have a remarkable story to share.
Congratulations to the Minot High School softball team on a historic season.
This is the opinion of Alex Eisen. He covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.
Article courtesy of the Minot Daily News.