Archive for Kip Kovar

KIP KOVAR: New Germany, Waconia combine as perfect hosts for Region 7C tournament

The Region 7C tournament is always a special time for baseball fans around the area. With eight of the top teams vying for one of four spots in the state tournament, you never know what might happen.

Last year, we saw the eighth-seeded Brownton Bruins upset the top-seeded Plato Bluejays in the first round. That upset setup one of the most intriguing state qualifier games in sometime, between Plato and Green Isle.

This year, we saw the Young America Cardinals rally for three runs in the top of the ninth inning and knock off the second-seeded Waconia Lakers, clinching their first state tournament appearance since 2012.

That four-year absence was nothing compared to what the Carver Black Sox accomplished, though. After missing the tournament for 34 straight years, the Black Sox finally broke through with a 6-0 win against the Watertown Red Devils, to punch their ticket to the state tournament.

Not only did fans see some great games and incredible performances, they also got to witness all of that in two pretty awesome locations.

New Germany was the main site for the Region 7C tournament this year. By not having lights for the night games during the week, the Dutchmen called on the Waconia Lakers for some help.

With New Germany and Waconia being the hosts, it gave fans two different sides to the state of amateur baseball in Minnesota.

In New Germany, fans were treated to an old ballpark that has been a staple in the community since 1955. It may not be the prettiest ballpark to look at it, but there’s plenty of history and things to love about the home of the Dutchmen.

Eric Roepke, the son of hall of famer Gerald “Beans” Roepke, did an incredible job of getting the field ready in New Germany for the tournament. With not much time to get things ready for the tournament, Roepke did a fantastic job getting the field ready for the busiest time of the year. Oh, and he also did a great job of getting the softball fields ready for the firemens tournament that was going on in town, as well.

Not only was the field in great shape and ready to go, the volunteers and all of those involved also delivered with a great concession stand. Between the burgers, cheese curds, fries, cold beer, and other snacks, fans had all they could hope for while taking in a great ball game.

With just one little grandstand and some small bleachers normally, the Dutchmen took out all the stops. The Dutchmen brought in the football bleachers from Mayer Lutheran High School, and gave fans plenty of choices of where to sit to take in the game.

It’s safe to say, the New Germany Dutchmen and their volunteers didn’t disappoint as hosts, and breaking a new attendance record proves it. Last year, Region 7C set a new attendance record with 2,707. This year, Region 7C added another 151 to that record, making the new record 2,858. They also set the single-day attendance record with 610, as well.

The New Germany Dutchmen couldn’t have done it alone though, and that’s what made this year’s tournament so special. The Waconia Lakers, who host one of the newest, and perhaps the best, grandstands in the state were the co-hosts.

The Waconia Baseball Association did a marvelous job in getting a brand new grandstand to accompany a gorgeous field at Lions Field.

Not only did Waconia offer a special grandstand with a gorgeous field, they also knocked the concessions out of the park. Burgers? Check. Pulled pork? Check. Pulled pork on a burger? Check.

From one ballpark to another. Fans were treated to a great experience, as that’s just one of many reasons Region 7C broke their own attendance record for the second-straight year.

From the history of New Germany, to the modern beauty of Waconia, the Dutchmen and the Lakers were a perfect pair to host the Region 7C tournament.

Two towns, two ballparks, numerous volunteers, and endless memories for fans, players, and everyone who attended.

BACK TO STATE: Orphans headed back to state tournament for 11th time since 2000

DASSEL – The name Howard Lake Orphans has become a staple at the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball tournament over the years. For the 11th time since 2000, the Orphans will be back at the state tournament, after missing out last year, with a 6-2 victory against the Dassel-Cokato Saints Wednesday night.

“Last year, we probably deserved too talent wise,” Orphans manager Mike Gagnon said. “This year, we maybe didn’t deserve talent wise. But you know, you play the game, and see how it comes out. It’s sweet. Especially when the expectations were lower. To make state, it’s a rewarding feeling.”

With the season on the line, there was no doubt who Gagnon would turn to, to lead his team on the mound. Mike Dockendorf, who posted a 1.13 ERA in 72 innings of work this regular season, delivered once again for his team in a big spot.

“He deserves to be MVP pitcher of the league this year,” Orphans manager Mike Gagnon said. “He’s not had a bad outing. He’s not lost a game for us all year. He just competes like heck. He’s really learned how to change speeds. He doesn’t walk guys, and he just gives you a great chance because he competes.”

Dockendorf went seven and one-third innings in the victory for the Orphans. His only blemish came from a two-run home run following an error. After giving up the home run, Dockendorf wasted no time in getting back in control of things. He struck out the next two batters he faced to get out of the inning, as he finished with 11 strikeouts when it was all said and done.

“He was coming back on a little short rest,” Gagnon said. “He had 100-plus pitches last Friday, so it was a little short break for him. I knew he could maybe lose a little at the end, but he competed like heck.”

Along with another solid start from Dockendorf on the mound, the Orphans got production from all over the lineup in clutch situations. After three innings, the Orphans had a 2-0 lead, thanks to clutch two-out RBI singles from Steve Boger and Riley Gruenhagen.

In the top of the fifth, Boger made it a 3-0 game with another RBI single, and the Orphans were off and running. An RBI single by Brett Ahsenmacher made it 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth, and an RBI double from Jake Gruenhagen extended the Orphans’ lead to 5-0 after six innings of play.

“Our young guys have grown up a little bit,” Gagnon said. “In addition to pitching, a kind of key to our season this year is Mitch Baumann. He didn’t play hardly at all in college, but he practiced with the team at Morris. When Matt Donovan got hurt, he had to step up, and defensively he did a great job for us. If you pitch and catch, you have a chance.”

With the win, the Orphans are headed back to the state tournament after missing out last season. They will face the winner of the last state qualifier game between Loretto and Hutchinson Saturday, Aug. 12 at 4 p.m. The Orphans have locked up a spot in the state tournament, but will continue to finish up Region 12C play to determine the seeding order.

“We’ll just take it one game at a time,” Gagnon said. “We’re going to play to win. The stomach will be a little more relaxed than tonight’s game. Jared has had a good season, too. If Jared is on, we’ll have a chance to win on Saturday, and then you just take it one game at a time.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club open for shooting tonight

Despite the heavy rains this morning and afternoon, the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club will be open for shooting tonight (Wednesday, August 9).

For updates, stay connected with Herald Journal online and on Facebook.


KIP KOVAR: Amateur baseball and its parks never cease to amaze

Amateur baseball has always held a special place in the heart of Minnesotans. Whether you’re a father or mother of a ball player, a player yourself, or even just a local townie who just can’t get enough of watching the hometown nine, it holds a special place in our hearts.

The state amateur baseball tournament brings that all together, and it seemingly never gets old. As teams and fans come from all over the state to see some high-quality baseball, it’s the gorgeous parks the games are played at that sometimes go unnoticed.

Amateur baseball, and the Crow River Valley League in particular, never ceases to disappoint with countless beautiful ballparks just waiting to be enjoyed. Just ask Ryan Simonson and Marty Lambrecht of Minneapolis, better known as Ryno and Marty from the popular-growing Town Ball Tuesdays.

Green Isle will be on of three hosts for the 2017 Amateur State Tournament.  "The Yard" not only is a magnificent field for playing on, but also offers several different viewing angles for fans to enjoy.

Green Isle will be on of three hosts for the 2017 Amateur State Tournament. “The Yard” not only is a magnificent field for playing on, but also offers several different viewing angles for fans to enjoy.

Ryno and Marty, who have been friends for years, came up with the idea of Town Ball Tuesdays after discovering a love for small-town baseball. What started as an idea, quickly has Marty and Ryno running all around the state and getting requests from teams to come check out their parks at a constant rate.

“Marty and I have been friends for years,” Ryno said. “I’m a lifelong ballplayer and general baseball nut. We’ve done some camping and road trips together over the years, and we’ve always loved small towns and their great little bars and unique culture. When I got him (Marty) out to a town ball game, I think he started to get my passion for baseball a bit more.”

What started as just visiting parks and taking in games, grew to more as they wanted to be able to document their visits, and share their travels with people who love amateur baseball as much as they do.

“Eventually, we got to a point where we wanted to find a way to document and share our little stories about the parks, and the people, and Town Ball Tuesdays was born,” Marty said. “For me, there’s something kind of magical about the way these communities support baseball beyond just youth sports. It’s a sort of local pride and entertainment that came out in the 1800s, and for some reason, never died in Minnesota. I grew up primarily in Michigan, where there’s nothing like this at all. It’s beautiful to roll into a little town that is basically made up of a church, a cemetery, a bar, and an immaculately-cared-for baseball stadium.”

Amateur baseball hasn’t always been a major role in the lives of the creators of Town Ball Tuesdays, but since taking off, it’s become a family affair, as well.

“I’ve always been fortunate enough to bring my mom along sometimes,” Marty said. “She grew up going to games in all these same towns in her youth, and it’s great to hear her stories and learn how much it meant to her and her family. To have this town ball tradition right under my nose and to have no knowledge of it is a shame. If I can do anything to help spread the word and love of the game, I’m all for it. It’s such a treasure, that I feel is grossly under appreciated.”


Hamburg is another one of the sites for the 2017 Amateur State Tournament. Hamburg offers a great setup for a hardcore or casual fan to enjoy a game.

Tuesdays were the night of choice for Ryno and Marty, as Tuesday is Marty’s night off from bartending. With the CRVL playing a multitude of Tuesday night games, the CRVL has become a favorite of the traveling duo.

“The CRVL is great because there tend to be a good number of games scheduled on Tuesday nights,” Ryno said. “All the parks are close enough to get out to for use, and the league boasts some of our favorite ballparks in the state.”

As far as their favorite park in the CRVL, well, that’s too tough of a decision to make based on the quality choices.

“That’s a tough call,” Ryno said. “I have sentimental attachment to Cologne, as Jason Kuerschner was one of the first people to really support what we’re doing with Town Ball Tuesdays and really make us feel welcome when we were just getting started. Young America’s park is really fun to be at. It’s so unique with its quirky little European village architecture. Add in the cozy dimensions, the home plate that’s so close to the grandstand that you can pick the umpire’s back pocket, you’ve really got just about everything we love in one package. Waconia has done such a great job with their overhaul, and Watertown, Brownton, and Glencoe all have amazing yards. Green Isle and Hamburg have really stepped up prepping for the tourney.”

“I can’t make that call as I still have a few yet to see,” Marty said. “I truly seem to find things to enjoy about each park. That’s the beauty in this. They’re all so unique in charmingly, subtle ways. The fun is in finding out what’s what, and taking in all the great viewing angles.”

The regular season has just been a warm-up for the Town Ball Tuesday crew. With the 2017 Minnesota Amatuer State Tournament being held in some of their favorite parks, you can count on Marty and Ryno to be out enjoying the game we all love and sharing their experiences.

“We’ll definitely be floating around during the tourney as much as possible,” Ryno said. “Last summer was our first covering the tournament as Town Ball Tuesdays, and we had a blast. Dassel, Hutchinson, and Litchfield really pulled out all the stops to make it a great tournament, and we got to meet so many wonderful people from all over the state, some of whom already knew about us.”

“As the tournament draws nearer, my excitement grows,” Marty said. “The atmosphere definitely swells to a fever pitch. All three of these towns are making painstaking efforts to put their best foot forward.”

You can follow Ryno and Marty on their adventures via their Twitter or blog.

Twitter: @TownBallTuesday

Wildcats lean on experience to take Game 1 against Cologne

COLOGNE – With a handful of veterans leading the way, the Winsted Wildcats never faltered form the plan in there 5-2 victory against Cologne in Game 1 of the Crow River Valley League playoffs. After watching the Hollanders rally to tie the game at two, the Wildcats answered back right away with three runs in the top of the seventh to get the win.

Garrett Schultz started the rally for the Wildcats with a lead off single. After Nate Tesch moved Schultz up to second with a sacrifice bunt, the bats got red-hot.

Jacob Volness singled to put runners on first and third with one out, and shortstop Ryan Quast kept the rally going with an RBI double, giving the Wildcats a 3-2 lead. Curtis Herbolsheimer added another pair of runs with a single to left field, and just like the Wildcats had a 5-2 lead.

Following the big inning to retake the lead, Shane Khan continued to keep the Hollanders in check. Khan went seven innings on his way to earning the win. He allowed just two runs off of three hits while striking out eight. Brady Jenkins sealed the win with two strong innings in relief. He allowed just no hits in two innings of work, and struck out five.

With the win, the Wildcats take a 1-0 lead in the best of three series. Game 2 will be played Friday night in Winsted at 7:30 p.m. A win, and the Wildcats advance to the Region 7C tournament. A loss, and the Hollanders and Wildcats will meet for a Game 3 in Cologne Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

For a full story on Winsted’s Game 1 victory, check out the July 28 edition of the Herald Journal.


Young America 7, New Germany 1 (Cardinals take 1-0 series lead)

Carver 14, St. Boni 3 (Black Sox take 1-0 series lead)

Watertown 4, Hamburg 3 (Red Devils take 1-0 series lead)

Glencoe 5, Brownton 4 (Brewers take 1-0 series lead)


Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter. @Kovar_HJSports 

Buchanan ready to take over Mayer Lutheran boys’ basketball program

MAYER – For the third time in six years, there will be a new face leading the Mayer Lutheran High School boys’ basketball team on the court this upcoming season. Mayer Lutheran athletic director Kris Gustin has announced the school has hired Patrick Buchanan as the new head boys’ basketball coach.

Buchanan, who currently serves as the Athletic Director at Trinity School at River Ridge, was also the girls’ basketball coach the past four seasons.

With the position open, Buchanan saw an opportunity for a chance to get back into coaching the boys.

“The jump was switching back over to the boys’ side of basketball,” Buchanan said. “I really enjoy coaching girls, but I really was itching to coach boys again. Being Mayer Lutheran, a Christian school, I think it was a no-brainer for me.”

Patrick Buchanan was named the new Mayer Lutheran head boys’ basketball coach. Buchanan previously served as the girls’ head coach at Trinity School at River Ridge for the last four years.

Patrick Buchanan was named the new Mayer Lutheran head boys’ basketball coach. Buchanan previously served as the girls’ head coach at Trinity School at River Ridge for the last four years.

Buchanan also had stops at Kennedy High School in Bloomington, as well as Park Center Senior High School, where he was an assistant on the boys’ basketball teams.

As far as making the switch back to coaching boys, Buchanan doesn’t see much difference.

When you coach, you coach,” Buchanan said.  “I mean, the difference in between the two is the boys sometime have the athleticism, but coaching a team is coaching a team. We will run different styles than what I ran with the girls, but coaching is coaching is how I look at it.”

Buchanan comes into a team loaded with talent that is ready to compete. Kobey Woolhouse, Cole Hagen, and Garrett Tjernagel will all be back as seniors. Along with a star-studded group of seniors, junior Baden Noennig also returns as a versatile player who can play inside and out.

“I’m very excited about this group,” Buchanan said. “The seniors, all the way down to the freshman. I’m excited about the entire program. Where Dan left this program, it’s in a very good place. These young men over here have already been showing me that they’re ready to work hard and achieve goals.”

With tons of talent and experience on the roster, Buchanan will be looking to play an up-tempo style, as well as focusing on defense.

“We will be an up-tempo team,” Buchanan said. “Our focus will be on the defense. Our defense will dictate the game, and that’s the type of team we’ll be. We want to get the ball up and down the court. We want to try to force turnovers and get some easy baskets.”

With the season still more than three months away, Buchanan will be looking to get to know his players and develop relationships, as well.

“Just grow as a family is the number one thing,” Buchanan said. “Bringing the family atmosphere over here, and continue to grow as a family, and as a team. I think if we’re able to do those things, the sky will be the limit.”

Even though it will be his first year in the program, Buchanan thinks the Crusaders have a chance to make some noise come playoff time.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity,” Buchanan said. “It’s going to take us a while. Everybody has to adjust to me, and I have to adjust to these young men. I respect the section. The section is going to be pretty tough. We’re just hoping  throughout the course of the season that we’re getting better each day, each game, and we’ll be able to really compete in the section.”

Mayer Lutheran will begin the Buchanan era Saturday, Dec. 2 when they travel to rival Watertown-Mayer for their season opener.

“(I’m) just excited for this opportunity and blessed to be here,” Buchanan said. “We’ve been getting a little time to get to know each other and we’ll continue to do that. It’ll be a fun year.”


Follow Kip on Twitter. @Kovar_HJSports