Archive for Kip Kovar

AMATEUR BASEBALL: Red Devils get hot in rout of Wildcats

WATERTOWN – There was a bit of a difference between the Watertown Red Devils and Winsted Wildcats when they battled it out in a Crow River Valley League matchup Tuesday night at Highland Park. The Red Devils came in well-rested and ready to go, while the Wildcats came in after a busy weekend that took most of their pitching to get through.

That difference was more than enough for the Red Devils to pounce on, as they cruised to a season sweep over the Wildcats with a 16-3 victory in seven innings.

Jared Duske lines a base hit for the Watertown Red Devils in their 16-3 victory in seven innings over Winsted July 10. Duske and the Red Devils continue to stay hot as they remain atop the CRVL North division with an 11-2 record.

Jared Duske lines a base hit for the Watertown Red Devils in their 16-3 victory in seven innings over Winsted July 10. Duske and the Red Devils continue to stay hot as they remain atop the CRVL North division with an 11-2 record.

With not many pitchers available, the Wildcats turned to Garrett Schultz on the mound, as he was making his first start of the season. After working around a jam in the top of the first and allowing just one run, the Red Devils got to him in the second inning.

The Red Devils (11-2) batted around and scored six runs in the bottom of the second, to take a 7-0 lead after two innings.

After watching the Red Devils put up six runs in their half of the inning, the Wildcats tried to chip away. Three-straight hits from Curtis Herbolsheimer, Garrett Zander, and Luke Thiesen scored a pair of runs for the Wildcats, cutting the deficit to 7-2.

Just like the Wildcats, the Red Devils weren’t afraid to answer, and they did so in a big way. They added six more runs in the bottom of the third inning, three of which came on a home run from Mitch Kelzer, to break the game open.

With the loss, the Wildcats fall to 5-9 on the season, and in a tie with the St. Boni Saints in the CRVL North. The Red Devils improved to 11-2 on the season with the win, and increased their lead in the CRVL North over the Waconia Lakers to 2.5 games. The Red Devils also got some help from the Green Isle Irish Tuesday night. The Irish defeated the Young America Cardinals 5-4 at home, which gives the Red Devils a little more wiggle room down the stretch to get a bye into the Region 7C Tournament.

Three teams receive a bye into the Region 7C tournament, the winner of each division, plus the next best record in the league as a whole. With Watertown’s win combined with Young America’s loss, the Red Devils have some extra breathing room in the Region 7C standings, should they not win the CRVL North.

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KOVAR: Enjoy high school basketball for what it is

I was planning to stay out of it this time. I guess I just couldn’t resist.

During Monday’s Minnesota State High School League board meeting, the proposal of adding a 35-second shot clock to the high school basketball game for boys and girls was rejected by the board of directors. Shortly after that decision was announced, the shot clock enthusiasts came out in full force on social media.

To get it out of the way right away, I’m against adding shot clocks to the game of high school basketball. With that being said, I do see both pros and cons to a shot clock being added, and despite what I think or hope happens, I do see a shot clock being added at some point.

There are plenty of pros and cons about adding a shot clock. What really bothers me is when people want to make a drastic change to the game because of just one or two games that take place over the course of one season. Of course, I am referring to the Waseca and Marshall girls’ basketball game that ended with a score of 17-4.

Outrage over needing a shot clock emerged following that game. After one game. One game out of thousands that were played throughout the season, people declare that is the reason we need a shot clock.

The word that bothers me the most when people argue about shot clocks is need. In order for them to be needed, something must be lacking right? I’ve watched a lot of high school basketball games and played in a lot, as well. There’s nothing lacking about high school basketball. Actually, it’s the only true form of the game left, and why would we want to change that because of one game each year?

High school basketball is not part of the entertainment business, such as the NCAA or NBA. Let’s stop trying to make it like that.

The goal of high school hoops is not to develop these kids to play in college or at the professional level. Yeah, some kids are good enough to, and will play at those levels. The goal of high school hoops is to see kids playing the sport they love and dealing with success and failure on the court. When they learn how to deal with it on the court, they can be prepared to deal with success and failure in the real world.

There’s nothing wrong with the game of high school basketball right now. It’s not broken. It doesn’t need to be fixed.

Yes, I will admit, in some circumstances, a shot clock being added would add some extra intrigue and drama for some games. There’s no doubt it would. But at what cost do we change the game entirely to make it more like a game at the college or professional? Those kids are hand-picked to play in college. Those players playing in the NBA are some of the best athletes in the world. There not high school kids dealing with things that high school kids have to endure.

The biggest reason I am against having shot clocks is that it takes away a lot of strategy. If a team wants to run an offensive set for a full minute in order to ensure a good shot, there’s nothing wrong with that. If a team has a six-point lead with just under two minutes to go and wants to hold the ball, there’s nothing wrong with that.

You don’t want them to stall? Go get the ball. It’s that simple.

People can never admit that it takes two teams to stall. They always point the blame at the team holding the ball. Well, if you don’t want them to hold the ball, go out and defend them. It’s impossible to stall when being pressured.

On the other side of it, the idea of running out the clock takes skill and decision making. If a team is able to pass the ball around for an extended period of time without turning it over, why should they be penalized with a shot clock and have to put up a contested shot just so the other team gets the ball back? It doesn’t make sense at this level.

The game of high school basketball is perfectly fine the way it is. Let’s appreciate it for what it is, and that’s something that we all enjoy and love. Especially when section and state tournaments come around.

These are high school kids playing the game. Not college or professional athletes. Let’s stop trying to make this game like the NCAA and NBA, and enjoy what high school basketball really is – a chance for high school kids to play the game they love with their friends while their family watches.

PREP ROUNDUP: Weather wreaks havoc on area section tournaments

WINSTED – With section baseball and softball tournaments nearing the finish line, mother nature wasn’t having it. Around the state, section baseball and softball tournaments were postponed for the evening, creating a new schedule for the teams still alive. Below is look at some of the schedule changes, results, and notes from area section tournaments.

With just four teams left, the plan was to have just two remaining after tonight. That didn’t work as planned, as both games scheduled for tonight were postponed due to weather.

In the winners bracket, Norwood Young America got the win over Maple Lake 5-4 in a weather-shortened game. It was Maple Lake’s first loss of the season.

The Irish had a 3-0 lead after one inning of play, but home runs from Bren Fox and Anna Mackenthun tied the game for the Raiders in the second inning.

With the game then tied at four in the fifth inning, Leah Crown came through for the Raiders with a two-out RBI single to give them a 5-4 lead. The game was called because of weather shortly after, as the Raiders advanced to the Section 5AA title game.

With the loss, Maple Lake drops into the one-loss bracket. They will face the winner of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and Litchfield Wednesday evening.

HLWW and Litchfield were also playing in Rockford Tuesday night. Their game was called due to weather in the fifth inning with the Dragons leading the Lakers 7-3. The Dragons scored six runs in the top of the first inning to grab the early lead, but the Lakers began to chip away with two runs in the bottom of the third inning.

Litchfield and HLWW will pick up their game where they left off Wednesday, May 30 at Rockford at 3 p.m. The winner will then play Maple Lake for a trip to the Section 5AA title game.


Wednesday, May 30

(12) HLWW vs. (3) Litchfield, 3 p.m.

* Dragons lead 7-3 in the top of the fifth inning. Winner plays (1) Maple Lake right after.



Weather also was a factor for the Section 4A softball tournament. Like Section 5AA, there were just four teams remaining. Mayer Lutheran and West Lutheran were scheduled to play in an elimination game, with the winner playing Randolph after.

The game between the Crusaders and the Warriors was postponed in the bottom of the sixth inning with the score tied at five. The Crusaders will have runners on first and third with two outs and Taylor Gabbert hitting when the game resumes Wednesday.

The winner of Mayer Lutheran and West Lutheran will face Randolph for a trip to the Section 4A championship game against Kimball.


Wednesday, May 30
(4) Mayer Lutheran vs. (5) West Lutheran

* Game is tied at five in the bottom of the sixth inning. Winner plays (2) Randolph right after.



In Section 4A for baseball, Mayer Lutheran and top-seeded Heritage Christian had their game shortened to weather. The Crusaders suffered the same disappointment as the Maple Lake softball team did as they trailed 1-0 after five innings, thus counting as a full game, and giving Heritage Christian the win.

Mayer Lutheran falls to the one-loss bracket and will face the winner of West Lutheran and Legacy Christian Thursday afternoon in Mayer.

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity got their full game in against Goodhue despite the weather. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, their season came to an end with 2-0 loss to the Wildcats. The Wildcats did all their damage in the first inning, as a two-run home run was all they needed.


Wednesday, May 30

(3) PACT Charter at (2) Randolph, 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 31

(7) Legacy Christian or (6) West Lutheran at (4) Mayer Lutheran, 4:30 p.m.


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PREP SOFTBALL: Defense leads Bulldogs past Mounds Park Academy

LESTER PRAIRIE – For the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity softball team, the bats were simply not there in their Section 4A opening game against Mounds Park Academy. That didn’t bother them one bit as they continued to do what they’ve done all season long, which was play strong defense, and that helped lead them to a 3-1 victory over the sixth-seeded Panthers Tuesday night.

“We needed it,” LP/HT coach Bill Nuebarth said about getting a great performance form his defense. “It was just good defense. (We had) one error. The outfield made plays when they had to, and Jenna (Dolezal) got strike outs when we had to. It’s a good game for us.”

LP/HT senior Rileigh Shackelton applies the tag at second base for a big out during LP/HT's 3-1 victory over Mounds Park Academy Tuesday night.

LP/HT senior Rileigh Shackelton applies the tag at second base for a big out during LP/HT’s 3-1 victory over Mounds Park Academy Tuesday night.

The Bulldogs, the No. 3 seed in the Section 4A tournament, had just four hits in the game, but their aggressive base running helped pick up the lack of the production that their bats had. After both teams traded zeros for the first two innings, the Bulldogs finally were able to break through thanks to a pair of errors by the Panthers.

Myranda Hentges reached on an error to start off the bottom of the third inning. After a strikeout, Hentges stole second to give the Bulldogs a chance to get on the board with a runner in scoring position. A base hit from Rileigh Shackelton brought Hentges to third, and an errant throw to the infield allowed Hentges to score and give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. Shackelton later came around to score on an RBI single from Kayla Weinzierl, and the Bulldogs had a 2-0 lead after three innings.

It didn’t take long for the Panthers to answer. In the top of the fifth, the Panthers got their first run of the game courtesy of back-to-back base hits. That’s all the Panthers would get though as Dolezal settled down in the circle and was on cruise control the rest of the way.

While Nuebarth didn’t think he would have the luxury of having a go-to pitcher to lean on in games like this coming into the season, Jenna Dolezal has been more than anything he could have asked for this season.

“One walk in this game and six or seven strikeouts,” Nuebarth said about his pitcher Jenna Dolezal. “That’s what we need. We just need to play good defense behind her.”

With the Bulldogs still leading 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, senior Emma Blashack provided a big insurance run. After Blashack tripled with some very aggressive baserunning, she came around to score on a comebacker to pitcher which allowed her to show off her baserunning once again.

“Jenna made that big play and Emma had that big hit over the head,” Nuebarth said. “That was huge. Those are seniors. That’s what we kind of expect from them. (They) step it up.”

With the win, the Bulldogs advance to play second-seeded Randolph on the road Thursday afternoon.

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Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 


ALL THE SMALL THINGS: Royals use small ball to cruise past SW Christian

CHASKA – When you’ve been around the game of softball as long as Watertown-Mayer coach Scot Isakson has, you always seem to have a few tricks up your sleeve. With 15 years of coaching experience under his belt, Isakson and the Royals caught the SW Christian Stars off guard in the first round Section 5AA softball tournament opener.

Watertown-Mayer coach Scott Isakson had the perfect game plan as the Royals cruised to a 9-1 victory over SW Christian Monday evening.

Watertown-Mayer coach Scott Isakson had the perfect game plan as the Royals cruised to a 9-1 victory over SW Christian Monday evening.

“We’ve played small ball on and off throughout the season this year,” Isakson said. “It depends on the team that you play. You don’t necessarily want to show it that early because you want to be able to go back to it later. When we played them before, we didn’t bunt at all. We got our hacks in knowing that today, we could come back and potentially get a few bunts down and move some runners around, and it worked out. The girls have really done a good job of that.”

The small ball strategy put in play by the Royals caught the Stars off guard early and often as the Royals used their speed on the base paths to cruise to a 9-1 victory and keep their season alive Monday afternoon. The Royals took advantage of errors, walks, and perfect bunts to score nine runs despite just having four hits as a team. They scored at least one run in each of the first three innings as they got the leadoff batter on in each inning which came via three different players.

“That just kind of speaks to our team and how hard they work,” Isakson said. “This season, we’ve had five total practices outside. Only four of them were on our home field. We’re finally starting to find a groove. We’ve played 19 games in the last three weeks. We’re starting to play some better ball.”

“We came out and kind of thought that they would have the mentality that they’re going to beat us again,” junior Janessa Berrios said. “We just had to prove them wrong. We were just ready to play. It was a good battle.”

While Berrios and the Royals were able to jump out to an early lead thanks to a run in the first and two more in the second, the Royals only gained more confidence as the game went on as they felt in control.

“It definitely makes us a lot happier and gets our confidence up at the plate and in the field,” Berrios said about getting an early lead.

Junior Nikki McDonald squares up for a bunt during Watertown-Mayer's 9-1 victory over SW Christian.

Junior Nikki McDonald squares up for a bunt during Watertown-Mayer’s 9-1 victory over SW Christian.

While the Royals were enjoying a 3-0 lead after two innings, the Stars weren’t going to go down without a fight. After W-M’s starter Karly Swanson walked a pair of batters to open the inning, Isakson didn’t waste any time going to his reliever Morgan Matson. The move paid off big time for the Royals, as Matson struck out the next three batters in order to get the Royals out of the inning without allowing a run.

“Those two have really done a great job of supporting each other,” Isakson said about his pitchers. “When something goes wrong, those two have been able to flop, and they pick each other up really well. That’s a nice benefit to have both of those two to lean on.”

Swanson and Matson did a masterful job pitching for the Royals in the win allowing just the one run. They also held the heart of the Stars’ lineup in check, which was their problem in a 4-1 loss to Stars earlier this season. The top four hitters for the Stars went 1-for-9 with walk and six strikeouts as Swanson and Matson held them in check throughout.

“That’s just it,” Isakson said. “The last time we played them, that’s where all four of their runs came from. We did help them with two of those runs, but when you keep those top four hitters in check on any team, that’s when you can be successful.”

Janessa Berrios had two hits and scored two runs to lead the Royals to a big win in the fist round of the Section 5AA tournament,

Janessa Berrios had two hits and scored two runs to lead the Royals to a big win in the fist round of the Section 5AA tournament,

With the win, the Royals advance to the double elimination portion of the Section 5AA tournament. With just eight teams remaining, the Royals know it will be a battle throughout to get where they want to.

“We’re pretty excited,” Berrios said. “We don’t want the season to end. We’re not ready for it to end.”

Even with names like Maple Lake and Norwood Young America standing in the way, Isakson knows how unpredictable things can get this time of year when a team gets hot and plays well.

“That’s exactly right,” Isakson said. You pull of an upset and get a little bit of confidence. You just get some things rolling. You never know what’s going to happen. You can play for quiet a while if you want. That’s the goal.”

Watertown-Mayer will face top-seeded Maple Lake Tuesday afternoon on the road at 4:30 p.m. The Irish are a perfect 20-0 this season, and the top-ranked team in Class AA.


(9) Watertown-Mayer 9, (8) SW Christian 1

(4) Rockford 17, (13) Holy Family 0

(12) HLWW 8, (5) Spectrum 7

(3) LItchfield 15, (14) Brooklyn Center 0

(2) NYA 23, (15) MPLS Henry 0

(7) G-SL 19, (10) Blake 3

(11) Maranatha 13, (6) Providence Academy 6

SECTION 5AA SOFTBALL MATCHUPS (Tuesday, May 22 – All Games at 4:30 pm)

(9) Watertown-Mayer at (1) Maple Lake

(12) HLWW at (4) Rockford

(11) Maranatha Christian at (3) Litchfield

(7) Glencoe-Silver Lake at (2) NYA


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Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

PREP SOFTBALL: Loebertmann, Lakers face tough Kimball squad in regular-season finale

HOWARD LAKE – There’s no better way to get ready for the postseason than to face one of the top teams in your conference who happens to be one of the top teams in Class A. That’s just what the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted softball team did as they battled No. 4 in Class A Kimball in a 15-5 loss to close out the regular season.

While the Lakers knew it was a tough task at hand, that didn’t stop them from giving the Cubs all they had despite trailing 15-2 heading to their final chance. Even down 13 runs, the Lakers never rolled over as they rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and left the bases loaded.

HLWW's Lanney Loebertmann puts the tag on Kimball's Mackenzie Leither for a big out in the third inning.

HLWW’s Lanney Loebertmann puts the tag on Kimball’s Mackenzie Leither for a big out in the third inning. Loebertmann also went 2-for-3 at the plate with a two-run home run to get the Lakers on the board.

“They definitely didn’t give up,” HLWW coach Carol Meyerson said. “We had a few more opportunities on defense to make the plays, but it didn’t happen. We did pick it up for our pitcher though in the late innings.”

The no quit that Meyerson saw in her team despite the lopsided score is something she hoped she would see against the highly-ranked Cubs. With playoffs around the corner next week, Meyerson knows how important a short memory and energy throughout is important come playoffs, especially in a pitcher.

“For playoffs, we have to take it inning by inning,” Meyerson said. “We don’t know how it’s going to go. Both teams are going to want to win. Both teams are going to be there to fight. We have to go batter by batter, and inning by inning, and get all those outs that we can.”

Senior pitcher Hailey Wiegert did just that for the Lakers against the Cubs. After giving up two runs in the first inning, she bounced right back, posting a scoreless inning in the second against a deep and talented Cubs lineup. In the third inning, Wiegert allowed two more runs, but once again came back strong posting another zero in the fourth inning in which she struck out the first two batters she faced. That’s the kind of toughness and mentality Meyerson wants to see from her team heading into the Section 5AA tournament.

Lanney Loebertmann led the charge for the Lakers on offense. She went 2-for-3 with a walk, and a two-run home run that brought the Lakers within two runs in the bottom of the third inning. Alexis Decker also continued to swing a hot bat for the Lakers. She went 2-for-3 with two doubles and a run scored as she has continued to be a steady bat for the Lakers in the middle of the lineup this season.

“She’s been hitting really well,” Meyerson said. “She’s hitting in clutch times. She can get us started in the beginning of an inning, or when she’s got a baserunner on, she gets that RBI. That’s been really clutch for us having someone in the middle of the lineup that’s able to handle that pressure.”

For more photos of the HLWW softball team in their game against Kimball, click here.

Look for the rest of the story, as well as more HJ sports coverage, in the Friday, May 18 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

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