Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton senior shortstop Maria Pake remembers watching her cousins Kaylee, Emily and Ashton Pender play softball for D-G-F when she was younger. She thought they were so cool.
"I just always looked up to them," Pake said.
D-G-F has made the state tournament six times. Pake is about to play in her fourth Class 2A state tournament. She will do so when D-G-F opens with top-seeded Maple Lake at 9 a.m. Thursday at Caswell Park in North Mankato, Minn.
"She already knew the game as a freshman," D-G-F co-head coach Ron Dreschel said. "She's a really focused and determined kid. She's a perfectionist. She's been at all of our games since she was little, and she's one of the fastest kids we've ever had in the program. She has speed, knowledge and determination."
She only had three at-bats her freshman season, but she scored 17 runs and got her first taste of the state tournament as a pinch runner. She was a starter the next three seasons, entering the state tournament with 112 hits, six homers, 69 RBIs, 104 runs and a .404 batting average in 105 career games with D-G-F. She has struck out just 30 times in 272 at-bats in her career.
This season has been her best, as the Concordia commit is batting .474 with four homers, 35 runs, 29 RBIs in 88 at-bats.
He has many memories with Pake, but her two-run homer late in this season's section semifinals with Park Rapids leading 1-0 is a moment Dreschel will never forget. The Rebels won that game 2-1 en route to their fourth straight section title.
"She's a good kid," Dreschel said. "She's very focused, very determined. It's kind of sad. It's always sad when you lose anybody, but when they're a dedicated and softball-heavy it's even tougher. It's good for her, but sad for us."
The game of softball has given life lessons to Pake.
"Hard work helps you get to your goals," Pake said. "It's a fun game when you play it well. Hard work pays off."
Softball is so important to Pake that she's hanging up her skates for it. She's been a figure skater since she was 3 years old. Her mom signed her up and she fell in love with it. She'll put all her focus on softball for Concordia.
"It was an individual sport and you could go at your own pace," Pake said. "Depending on how hard you work you saw the result."
Before she heads to the Cobbers to continue her softball career she's hoping to make some noise with the Rebels.
"It's a pretty good way to end the season," Pake said. "Just going to leave it all out there at state."