May 25—It has been nearly three years since the Dickinson High School Softball team last played in the Class A state championship game. But they're no strangers to the big stage.
The Midgets reached the final in 2018, but glory would be swept away in a close 2-4 game against Minot High School. The Dickinson team were sent home empty-handed in the championship game for the third time in four years.
Now, the Midgets' near a flawless season of 25-2 overall, has once again welcomed their chance of redemption. An accomplishment that senior Paige Balliet wants to carry out before her time comes to an end at DHS.
"We're striving for (a state title)," Balliet said. "We've had so many opportunities where we've been so close in the past."
Star player Balliet, one of two seniors on the team, said the goal has remained the same throughout her time playing for DHS.
Dickinson has reached the state tournament in each of the last eight years, the longest streak of any WDA team.
All three appearances in the state championship game have come under the direction of Head Coach Amanda Mickey as Dickinson has become a perennial contender in the WDA and state tournaments.
Balliet has established herself as a starting outfielder for Dickinson this season, playing in 26 of 27 games. She has been a steady presence at the plate, posting a .461 batting average with two home-runs, 38 RBI and 13 walks, the second most on the team.
In addition to her success on the field, her impact off it is just as significant.
"She is a standout player and a good person," Mickey said. "She has a great attitude and we're blessed to have her in our program. She is someone that I'm going to miss."
The absence of a season last year due to the coronavirus pandemic has provided an extra motivation for this Midgets squad to finally get over the hump.
"Last year we called it our year; we were ready" Balliet said. "We really wanted to come back and get the title."
This season has the makings to be the year for the Midgets, Balliet said. With a 17-1 conference record this season, the Midgets captured their fourth WDA regular season since 2016. That year was also the last time Dickinson won the WDA tournament.
The Midgets were picked to finish third in the preseason WDA coaches poll, behind Bismarck High and Century.
It's no coincidence, Balliet said, who is having the best season of her career with the success Dickinson has had this season. They cruised through their schedule, posting a 25-2 mark. Balliet said she feels that part of that success comes from how close the team is to one another.
"I wouldn't have many friends if I didn't have softball," Balliet said. "I've met so many people from other schools and because we're a combined team with Trinity. It means a lot, they're like a family to me."
Mickey said that last season allowed them to approach this season with a greater appreciation.
"We're Dickinson and we want to be our best every year," Mickey said. "COVID definitely sucked. It made us realize that we can't take things for granted. You don't know when you're going to lose out on situations like losing a softball season. So staying humble and working your hardest every time is something we do and continue to do and I think it is something that our program does a good job of."
This additional gratitude toward the game has brought forth an increased desire to capture this year's state championship for Dickinson, which would be a first in program history.
First up will be the WDA conference tournament, where the Midgets will be looking to put an end to Bismarck High's run of three consecutive tournament titles as they begin their postseason run Thursday in Minot. They will play Williston High School (8-21, 4-14).
The state tournament will be in Mandan the following weekend on June 3-5.