Archive for Kip Kovar

SECTION 4A SOFTBALL: Baumann’s homer sparks offense for Mayer Lutheran in win over Bulldogs

NEW GERMANY – Mayer Lutheran softball coach Kris Gustin had a big decision to make in the bottom of the fourth inning. His team was down a run, with a runner at second and no one out.

With Chloe Kirt aboard, one of Mayer Lutheran’s top hitters stepped to the plate. After deliberating for some time, Gustin elected to play it safe and have Anna Baumann lay down a bunt to get the tying run into scoring position.

“She’s a good hitter,” Gustin said. “Maybe one of the best hitters on the team. In that situation, down one, you need a run. You’ve got to push that runner into second and hope you get two chances to get a run in.”

It looked as if it was going to backfire as Baumann couldn’t get the bunt down twice, but it all changed with one swing of the bat. With two strikes, Baumann blasted a two-run home run to center, giving Mayer Lutheran the lead and sparking their offense in a big way in their 5-1 victory over Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Monday evening in the first round of the Section 4A tournament.

“I didn’t want to bunt,” Baumann said. “I hate bunting. I don’t know. I just swung.”

“She hates bunting,” Gustin agreed. “She hates it when I tell her to bunt, but she’s good at it. She struggled to get the two down, and then, it’s just sit back and foul off pitches and see what you get. They threw one kind of up in her tomahawk zone and she just pushed it out of here. It was a great hit.”

Baumann’s homer gave the Crusaders a 2-1 lead after four innings, but also gave freshman pitcher Maddi Saulsbury some more confidence in the circle as she was now pitching with a lead.

“It was super important,” Saulsbury said. “It helped shift the spirit of the team and got us more motivated. It kind of turned the game around for us.”

From the fifth inning on, Saulsbury was in control as she retired nine of the last 11 batters she faced to help seal the win for the Crusaders.

“There’s a lot of youth in both of these teams, especially on the mound,” Gustin said. “Neither one of them got rattled. Getting an early lead is important, and once they got that one, for us to bounce back and get two is a huge deal.  Maddi hits locations and does a great job of throwing strikes. She doesn’t walk a lot of hitters. That’s good for us. When you play good defense, it’s tough to beat you. In playoffs, you want to come out and play clean.”

Baumann wasn’t the only Mayer Lutheran player with a key hit. Both Emma Lade and Symone Jopp were retired their first at-bats of the game, but worked on their swings between at-bats, which paid off big time.

“We talk to them about, if you’re the fourth, fifth or sixth batters in an inning, we want you on the tee,” Gustin said. “We want you doing that hitting progression and just kind of going through the mental work.”

A little tee work between innings for Lade and Jopp paid off big time. In the bottom of the fifth, Lade delivered with a two-out RBI single to extend Mayer Lutheran’s lead to 3-1. In the bottom of the sixth, it was Jopp’s turn to come through in the clutch. She delivered a two-RBI single with two outs, giving the Crusaders a 5-1 lead heading into the final inning.

“The one thing that’s been missing for us the last week or so, has been the clutch hit,” Gustin said. “In the first inning, with runners on second and third with no one out, we couldn’t get the clutch hit. For Symone and Emma to hit those two was huge to give us a little bit of a cushion. Symone had a rough day at Howard Lake, but today, she bounced back with two big hits for us. That was huge.”

Jopp also did it in the field for the Crusaders. In the top of the second, Jopp came through with a big relay to Lade at third base to get the final out of the inning and keep the Bulldogs off the board.

“This is the time of the year where you want to see your best players make plays,” Gustin said. “Symone’s had some arm issues, so it was really nice to see her throw the ball on the nose. It’s not quite as strong as it used to be, but it was definitely strong enough and right on the nose.”

Jopp wasn’t the only player to step up defensively for Mayer Lutheran. After Rylee Noerenberg was forced to leave with an injury after three innings, seventh-grader Bree Noerenberg  was called on to come in and play a position she’s never played before.

“Playing a seventh-grader after her sister gets hurt (was tough),” Gustin said. “She made three big catches out there in the outfield, and she’s never played outfield before this year. That was huge for us.”

Defense has been a hit or miss thing for the Crusaders all season long, but they’ve started their postseason run strong, as they committed just one error in the win.

“All I needed to do was throw strikes,” Saulsbury said. “I knew my defense was behind me.”

For LP/HT, Liyah Lambrecht was tagged with the loss despite a strong performance on the rubber. She allowed just four earned runs in six innings of work while striking out two.

Offensively, Kayla Lorentz drove in the lone run of the game with an RBI single in the top of the fourth.

With the win, Mayer Lutheran advances to play top-seeded Randolph. The Rockets are the No. 5 ranked team in Class A, and finished third in the Class A state tournament last season.

“Randolph is good,” Gustin said. “They finished third in state last year. They return just about everybody. They play really solid in the field. One thing I feel positive about, is that we have really been hitting the ball. We’ve been seeing the ball well lately. Our hitting has really come alive.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter to stay updated on all your favorite teams and players.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

PREP BASEBALL: Hot start leads Lakers to bounce-back win

WINSTED – There’s no sense in waiting until the last inning to get things going. The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted baseball team learned that in their previous game against Watertown-Mayer. It resulted in a loss.

With a chance to bounce back against the Kimball Cubs at home, the Lakers did just that as they came out red-hot with a big first inning to get back into the win column with a convincing 8-2 victory over the Cubs at Denis M. Campbell Field Monday evening.

“We played uptight on Friday,” HLWW coach Cullen Schultz said. “Today they came ready to go. When Noah Bush is on the mound, there’s a different mentality. You saw that today. They came loose and ready to go and they stringed some hits together.”

After Bush worked around an error in the top of the first inning, the Lakers wasted no time in getting on the board. Bush led off the inning by reaching on an error, and HLWW took full advantage of the mistake by Kimball. An RBI double from Trent Malone gave the Lakers an early 1-0 lead, but they were nowhere close to stopping. Trevin Olund, Brandon Karels, and Bush all drove in runs for the Lakers as they came out and put up six runs in the top of the first.

“It felt good to bounce back,” Bush said. “We had a lot of energy today. We were lacking it Friday. It felt good to finally get back and get a (win).”

After HLWW poured it on with six runs in the first, Kimball inched back into it thanks to a pair of errors by the Lakers. Two errors allowed two runs to score for the Cubs, but Bush picked up his guys behind him with back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the inning.

“My coaches always just tell me to relax up there and take a few deep breaths,” Bush said. “I just did that so I could power through this and keep going. I can’t put too much pressure on my defense. I just have to get up there and pound the zone.”

Bush did just that as he was dominant the rest of the way. In his final four innings, Bush retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced. On the day, he finished with a win in six innings of work, while allowing just two hits and striking out 11.

Life on the mound hasn’t always been easy for Bush. In his sophomore season this year, the right-hander has shown both his growth and maturity as a pitcher, as well as a leader for the Lakers this season.

“He’s growing,” Schultz said. “He started as an eighth grader. He has his ups-and-downs mentally. He’s just growing. This year, he’s taken a huge step. He’s really become a leader. You can see that when he’s up on the mound. He takes care of his teammates and picks them up when they need it.”

For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, May 3 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

AMATEUR BASEBALL: CRVL back to 13 teams after Norwood Indians forfeit 2019 season

The season for the Crow River Valley League looked like a promising one with some big events and getting one of their original teams back. After being inactive for the past three seasons, the Norwood Indians were set to return to the CRVL in 2019.

With the 2019 CRVL season set to begin Sunday afternoon, the Norwood Indians informed the league Friday afternoon they would be officially forfeiting the season as they were unable to field a team. All of Norwood’s scheduled games will be vacated for the 2019 season with no wins being awarded.

The Indians were scheduled to play in the CRVL North Division in 2019, giving each division an even seven teams. With the Indians out once again, the CRVL will return to the format they’ve used the past two season with 13 teams in the league.

The North and South Division winners will be the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds and receive byes into the Region 7C tournament. The No. 3 seed will be the team with the next best record regardless of division, and will also receive a bye into the Region 7C Tournament. The remaining 10 teams will play a best of three game series to determine the final five spots in the Region 7C Tournament.

Opening day for the CRVL is scheduled for Sunday May 5. Below is a look at the games for that day.

  • Waconia at Hamburg, 2 p.m.
  • Cologne at St Boni, 2 p.m.
  • Brownton at Winsted, 4 p.m.
  • Glencoe at Green Isle, 2 p.m.
  • Carver at New Germany, 2 p.m.

To stay updated with the CRVL all season long, follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

PREP BASEBALL: Watertown-Mayer tops Annandale in walk-off fashion

WATERTOWN – In a low-scoring game, it’s the little things that matter. Those little things often determine the difference between a win and a loss.

For the Watertown-Mayer baseball team, they did those little things right in the clutch, helping them pull off a 2-1 thrilling walk-off win against the Annandale Cardinals at home Tuesday night.

“It was great to see the players get a win today, even though we did not score a lot of runs,” W-M coach Justin Stohs said. “We did put pressure on the bases by putting the ball in play and moving runners through the bunt game and taking an extra base when we could.”

W-M’s ability to take advantage on the base paths was a big reason for the win. In the bottom of the first, Jackson Meyer led off the inning with a double, but it was base running ability and decisiveness that made it a double and set W-M up with a chance to take an early lead. Ansen Dulas delivered with an RBI single to right, putting the Royals up 1-0 early.

“Jackson Meyer led off with a double, but it was his great read and hustle that got him to second,” Stohs said. “Then a timely hit by Ansen Dulas got us a lead.”

Annandale would tie the game at one in the top of the third, forcing W-M to once again take advantage on the base paths in the bottom of the seventh.

With the game tied at one in W-M’s final at bat, the Royals worked a little more late-game magic. Nick Trucke led off the inning with a walk, and a perfect bunt from Cale Wabbe moved him into scoring position with just one out.

Trucke moved up to third on an error, and the Royals had the game-winning run at third with just one out and Tanner Hilten at the plate. Hilten was the player who was the hero last time for the Royals against Dassel-Cokato, but Annandale was able to get him out with a pop fly to third this time.

Down to their final out, it came down to a curve ball in the dirt. With Elliot Maas up, a curve ball from Annandale’s Paul Meyer got away, allowing Trucke to score on a passed ball and give the Royals a 2-1 walk-off win for the second time this season.

While base running was a key for the Royals in the win, Dulas was dominant on the mound. He went all seven innings, allowing one unearned run off of two hits while striking out nine.

“On the mound, Dulas was aggressive and made great pitches when needed,” Stohs said.

With the win, W-M improved to 2-2 on the season, and already has matched their win total from last season when they went 2-16. With another thrilling win under their belts, the Royals will be looking to build off of it even more.

“We did a lot of little things well today, and will have to continue to do that in the future,” Stohs said. “It is great to see it all come together, and the guys build some confidence for the future.”

PREP BASEBALL: New Life Academy sneaks past LP/HT

LESTER PRAIRIE – The chances and opportunities were there for the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity baseball team. They simply just couldn’t take advantage.

A rough start for the Bulldogs in the first inning didn’t hang with them, but they were unable to get the key hits when needed as they fell short against New Life Academy in a 4-1 loss on their home field Tuesday evening.

LP/HT had just four hits in the loss, but still had several chances to get back in the game. After senior Trevor Schuette on the mound rebounded after a tough inning, LP/HT had multiple opportunities to change the momentum in the game.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Zach Jackson led off the inning with a single. Riley Heimerl kept things going with a walk, and the Bulldogs had runners on first and second with just one out. LP/HT would strand both runners to end the inning, letting a chance to cut into the lead slip away.

Even in their last at-bat, the Bulldogs had a chance. After the first two batters were retired to start the inning, senior Dylan Ruzicka gave the Bulldogs some life. His second hit of the game kept things alive for the Bulldogs, with Jason Zimprich coming to the plate. Zimprich kept things rolling by drawing a walk, but once again, the Bulldogs were unable to find the clutch hit. For the game, LP/HT left eight men on base.

For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, April 19 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.


Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club will be closed Wednesday, April 10

Due to the weather, the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club will be closed Wednesday night. As we have done in the past, three league rounds will be needed to be shot over the next two weeks. It can be two rounds next week and the third the following week or vice versa.