Combating the Bishop Ryan softball team throughout the first and second innings is as challenging a task as any.
Especially at South Hill Complex.
Wednesday was a prime example, as the Lions rode a lightning-fast start to a 17-1 victory over Minot High, securing the West Region regular-season title outright.
Bishop Ryan junior Hannah Stewart scattered two hits in a 15-1, five-inning win over Minot High on Wednesday at South Hill Complex.
Ryan (22-2 overall, 21-1 West Region) plated six runs in both the first and second. During the first two innings of their last eight games, the Lions have outscored opponents 50-4
"We're in a groove now," said Ryan junior Hannah Stewart, who skied a two-run homer in the game's third at-bat. "The teams that we have been playing against have been playing great, but I just think we've kind of clicked as a team these past few games."
Altogether, Ryan holds a 96-8 advantage in runs in its recent eight-game span, all at its home park.
"It's nice not having to travel and get off the bus and play after you have dead feet for two hours," Stewart said. "It's definitely an advantage to play on your home field."
Aside from two errors and a couple of baserunning mistakes, the Lions appeared machinelike, with no faulty parts.
All nine of Ryan's starting batters recorded a hit as the Lions scored in each of their first four innings.
Stewart's first-inning homer was her sixth in five games this week. She's went yard in all five games.
Senior Anika Rovig also drilled a long ball, her fourth this week.
"I think kids are being disciplined and being selective on what they're going to swing at," Ryan coach Julie Stewart said.
The Majettes (11-13, 8-10) found little success at the plate.
Hannah Stewart (10-2) scattered two hits for a complete-game victory. She walked one, struck out seven and allowed zero earned runs.
"Ryan's a really good team," Minot coach Gerard Cederstrom said. "They've got some really good hitters. That's evident. You make a mistake and they make you pay for it.
"Eventually we've got to get to the point where we can hit the ball as consistent as that. Some games we hit it well and some games we don't."
Minot got on the board in the third to cut Ryan's lead to 14-1. The Lions scored three runs on two hits in the fourth.
Senior Lexi Benno suffered the loss for Minot, allowing 12 runs - seven earned - on 11 hits and two walks to go with three strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings.
Six Ryan batters - Maddie Lipp, Sheyenne Schmidt, Sydney Marmon, McKenzie Ebert, Stewart and Rovig - recorded two hits. Marmon, Schmidt and Brieann Backes tallied two RBIs, while Stewart totaled three.
Ryan, which was the road team, plays host to Minot in a doubleheader at 4:30 p.m. today.
"I just told them that we kind of want to go into tomorrow as it being the final leg of our relay and just finish strong," Julie Stewart said. "It's our last game before (the West Region tournament) and we want to be sharp and confident."
Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.