Archive for DEL Sports

KOVAR: A look back on the highlights from FDM 2022

When people look back on the 99th Minnesota Amateur State Baseball Tournament, there will be an endless amount of memories to relive. There were memorable moments that took place on the field. There were memorable stories that took place off the field.

It was a tournament to remember for a number of reasons. Despite the 2022 amateur baseball season being over, this sports writer can’t let go quite yet. That’s why I’m taking a look back on some of the most memorable moments that happened in Faribault, Dundas, and Miesville as part of the Class C and Class B state tournaments.

Bird Island outlasts Loretto in the longest state tournament game ever
This seems like a good one to start with. The title says it all.
As I was driving home from Waconia after covering the two games I saw that two of the other teams (Watertown and Loretto) were still playing. The Red Devils game ended just about when I got home, but when I got settled in, Loretto and Bird Island were still playing. I thought it worked out perfectly for me to catch a few innings before heading to bed. I was wrong.

I ended up watching 13 innings as it was the Bullfrogs who came through in the bottom of the 21st inning to finally get the win. The longest game in state tournament history was previously 20 innings. After we got to the 14th or 15th inning, I started to root for the record.

We got the record for the longest game in state tournament history and my amount of sleep took a big hit. The game ended just before 12:30 a.m. At 5 a.m., I was back at work at my part-time job on the golf course.

Chanhassen Red Birds go down in the opening round
There was a consensus on who was the favorite in Class B and for good reason. The Chanhassen Red Birds were the four-time defending Class B champions and looked poised to add another one. The Coon Rapids Red Birds had other plans.

Coon Rapids pulled the unthinkable knocking off the Class B powerhouse. The win by Coon Rapids opened the door for all other teams with the powerhouse out of the tournament early on.

With Chanhassen gone, Class B had a new feel to it as it was literally anyone’s tournament to win. I’m not the biggest Class B guy as all the teams I cover are Class C, but I found myself getting into it more and more as it turned out to be an exciting tournament with the Rochester Royals eventually claiming the state title.
Dumont takes the state by storm again
Last year at the state tournament, the Dumont Saints were one of the darlings of the tournament. After winning a game last year, the Saints became a fan favorite as people anxiously awaited to see what movie they would be watching on their way down to the state tournament.

In 2022, Dumont took the state by storm again but on a whole new level. Not only did they make it to Labor Day weekend, but the Saints were also part of what could be one of the best town ball stories of all time. Two members of the team were in a wedding on the North Dakota/Montana border the night before the game. Instead of driving back and trying to make the game on time, they used a different way to get back in time and it paid off in a big way as they not only won, but both players came through in big spots and had big games in the win for Dumont.

Webster Sox becomes a household name
Just five years ago, the Webster Sox had a 51-game losing streak. 2022 was a different story.
Not only did the Sox make their first region tournament appearance, but they also qualified for the state tournament for the first time in their organization’s history.

The run didn’t end there for Webster. The Sox rattled off a pair of wins to reach Labor Day in their first state tournament appearance.

One of the best parts of the state tournament is seeing new teams make runs. We all know the perennial powerhouses each year, but there’s something special and exciting when a team out of nowhere makes a run as Webster did.

Coming into the state tournament, all I knew was that they were one of the worst teams in the state a handful of years ago. Now they are a legitimate team that has shown what they could do on the state’s biggest stage. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Fergus Falls Hurricanes story
The 2022 state tournament was filled with awesome stories. One story that nobody is talking about is the Fergus Falls Hurricanes. It’s probably because they went 0-1 in the tournament and had their lone game moved to Waconia due to the weather.

The story surrounding the Hurricanes is a great one. Back in June, the team almost folded as they were having trouble getting players to show up to games and sign with the team. The team stuck together through it all though and ended up winning the Region 16 title.

Fergus Falls showed up to their state tournament game with 10 guys and nearly pulled off an upset against the Waconia Lakers. Down 7-0 early and 9-3 later in the game, the Hurricanes refused to go away quietly.
In the bottom of the ninth, Fergus Falls nearly walked off the Lakers with a rally if it wasn’t for a tremendous scoop at first base by Waconia’s AJ Friedrich. Had that ball got past him, the tying and winning run for Fergus Falls would have scored easily and the Hurricanes would have been playing on Labor Day weekend.
I give a lot of credit to those guys for sticking out the season and the run they went on. They were a play or two away from knocking off a powerhouse in Waconia on their home field. Guys who play hard and love the game are what I love about amateur baseball and Fergus Falls was the epitome of that in this tournament.

Weekend No. 2
The second weekend of the tournament is my favorite one. After getting a look at some of the teams on opening weekend, it’s so much fun to see those teams take their shots at region champions on weekend two.
This weekend didn’t disappoint one bit. Of the 16 games in Class C, nine of them were decided by one run and five of them went into extra innings. You couldn’t have asked for better games or matchups all weekend long and the fans were treated to some incredible games. It seemed like almost every game came down to the final pitch and that makes everything that much more interesting.

It’s crazy to think that if you look at the teams that made the Sweet 16, more than half of them could be out of it wasn’t for a play or two late in the games. Nisswa, the eventual state champions, were down 5-1 in the eighth inning before rallying to win the game. Loretto and Bird Island played an instant classic that lasted 21 innings. Watkins and Red Wing treated fans to one of the best pitching duels in the past handful of years. Hutchinson and Bluffton proved that no game is ever over until the final out.

All that happened in one weekend and it was a pleasure to be able to take that all in and be a part of it.

Looking Ahead
As good as the 2022 state tournament was, I’m even more excited for what lies ahead in 2023. The 100th anniversary of the MBA amateur state baseball tournament is poised to be as good as ever and just so happens to be in my backyard with Delano, Dassel-Cokato, and Litchfield combining to host the tournament. Those are three of the top parks in the state with some of the best people in amateur baseball running those organizations. Fans will not be disappointed in what is coming next year.

The state of amateur baseball is so healthy right now and its popularity is at an all-time high. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead next year in 2023. There are some big things planned for it all and I can’t wait to be part of it once again.

 

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

DUNDAS AFTER DARK: A look inside and beyond the longest game in state tournament history

DUNDAS – Despite sitting through the longest state tournament game in history, Bird Island manager Mike Nagel couldn’t leave the field. He knew what he had just witnessed was something special.

The Minnesota state amateur baseball tournament is in its 99th year of existence. No game had gone longer than when the Bird Island Bullfrogs topped the Loretto Larks in the final game of weekend two by a score of 3-2 in a game that lasted 21 innings.

“After it was done, I just couldn’t leave the field,” Nagel said. “Everybody started to leave, and I just sat down on the bench. One of the guys that were there gave me two beers, and I just sat and sipped on them. Mike Ludwig was there, and they turned off all the lights, and I was the only one there. He asked me if I was OK. I said no. I’m amazing. It was the coolest thing.”

There have been three games that went 20 innings in the state tournament’s history. The most recent one came in 2017 when Brooklyn Park topped Elko 4-3. Hector and Stark in 1971 and Cyrus and Fairfax in 1976 played a 20-inning game as well.

“It was one of the more unique experiences that I’ve ever been a part of,” Bird Island’s Tyler Hebrink said. “I’m 30 years old and have been playing since I was 16. I’ve been playing for half my life. There was just something different about last night’s game.”

There were headline moments coming into, during, and after the record-breaking game. The starting pitchers for Loretto and Bird Island happened to be the sons of former major leaguers. For the Larks, Caleb Koskie got the start on the mound, the son of former Twins player Corey Koskie. For the Bullfrogs, it was Josh Kingery getting the start, the son of Mike Kingery, who played 10 years in the big leagues with six different teams.
“It was almost like it was made for a movie,” Nagel said. “You’ve got two former major leaguers with their kids pitching against each other. Our bat boy got Mike Kingery and Corey Koskie’s autographs. He was beaming the whole night.”

Josh Kingery and Caleb Koskie put on a show on the mound, matching each other early on. Then, in the top of the seventh, Corey Koskie delivered in a big way to break a 1-1 tie. Corey Koskie belted a solo home run in the inning to put the Larks up 2-1, a humbling moment for Kingery on the mound.

“I told Josh that you tried to sneak a fastball past Corey Koskie, and he laughed and said, ‘yeah, that humbled me. An almost 50-year-old man turns around on my 90-mile-per-hour fastball and deposits it 50 feet over the fence.”

Following the solo shot by Koskie, Loretto was feeling good about themselves and was just nine outs away from advancing to Labor Day weekend.

“When Corey hit the home run in the top of the seventh to put us up 2-1, I thought that was going to be enough,” Loretto’s Kent Koch said. “I thought we could finish it. I was feeling pretty confident then. I guess we were just getting started, though.”

Bird Island would tie the game in the bottom of the eighth, setting up for what would become the longest game in state tournament history. Both teams had their chances to end things earlier, even the Larks, who didn’t record a single hit from the 10th through the 19th inning. After Kingery’s day ended after 12 innings and 151 pitches in which he allowed two runs with 13 strikeouts, the Bullfrogs kept Loretto at bay.

“I told him I know you think you’re fine, but you’re 20 years old,” Nagel said about taking out Kingery, “We’re not going to ruin your life in this game. You’ve done your job. We’ll take care of it from here. Our next three pitchers pitched nine innings of no-hit baseball. We had a no-hitter inside of this game.”

Bird Island’s Jared Dettman, Kolby Holtz, and Casey Lewandowski did just that. Dettman, the son-in-law of Nagel, also has professional baseball experience playing for the Atlanta Braves organization for four seasons.
The chances to end the game earlier were both there for the Larks and Bullfrogs throughout. In the bottom of the 13th, Bird Island had the leadoff man reach on an error putting the winning run at second with no outs. After electing not to bunt, Loretto worked out of the jam as Bird Island left the bases loaded. Loretto also left the bases loaded in the top of the 16th. After Bird Island recorded the first two outs of the inning, the Bullfrogs walked three straight batters before getting out of the inning and keeping the game tied.

The Larks would have another shot to win the game in the top of the 20th. Tyler Maher led off the inning with a single and moved up all the way to third with one, thanks to a pair of wild pitches. Maher had a chance to score on an infield single by Koch but elected to stay at third. Bird Island would get out of the inning with a pair of ground balls, keeping the game tied at two.

“They had so many chances, and we had so many chances,” Nagel said. “They had (a runner on third) with one out, and the ball was hit at our shortstop. The ball went off his glove, and I thought he was going to score, but he thought it was better to go back to third. There were so many of those types of plays. Baseball is such a funky game. It’s so mental. It’s so much about mental toughness. It’s the little things like that can make or break a game. In this game, there are probably 10 or more things that each team did that could have changed the outcome.”

With the number of missed chances on both sides, frustration settled in for both dugouts. With how late the game was being played, it was tough for players on both teams to stay focused on each pitch and play as the game dragged on and on.

“I moved over to first base towards the end and was talking to the first base umpire, and we were just trying to figure out what inning it was,” Koch said. “I told him I think it’s the 14th, but I’m not really sure. You lose track in a game like that pretty easily. It was basically a one-inning game at that point no matter what inning it was.”

“I was telling people that it was like that Field of Dreams scene where they don’t keep score, and they just wanted to play,” Hebrink added. “It honestly felt like that. There were so many opportunities for both sides. Whenever somebody got one of those, nobody could do it. It just seemed like we would just keep playing forever. It was a really unique situation.”

Koch also mentioned how tough it is to be ready defensively in a game that saw both teams strike out 24 times.

“In a game like that with a lot of strikeouts, it does get tough to play in the field,” he said. “You’re rarely getting some action, and then all of a sudden you do, and it turns out to be a big play. It was one of those games where you just have to keep each other up and go make something happen with the next chance you get.”
Staying focused got harder and harder throughout the game the later it got. As the game went on, so did the pressure each chance a team had the opportunity to deliver in a big spot.

“It’s so difficult to try and stay in the moment at that time of the night,” Hebrink added. “We’ve been playing for almost six hours. How many times did we have our best hitter up, or they have their best hitter up with a chance to win it? It was almost like you were a completely different hitter with that pressure. That added pressure was so much because we’ve been playing for so long that we’re just begging for somebody to end it. It just took forever to get that hit. We were all just gassed. We have been there since 3 o’clock that day. How do you anticipate playing 21 innings? You just can’t. We’d come into the dugout, and there would be a two or three-inning stretch where we had to build up some energy. Every three innings or so, you’d get a runner. It just took a couple of innings each time to get that energy and momentum back after not being able to capitalize on any situation over and over again. We just got completely drained.”

In the bottom of the 21st inning, closing in on six hours of game time, the Bullfrogs broke through at last. Trent Athmann led off the inning by reaching on an error and moved up to second on a single by Shawn Dollerschell on a perfect hit-and-run call.

“In the inning, we scored, we had a guy on first and with a 1-0 count,” Nagel said. “I thought let’s put a hit and run on.”

With the winning run just 90 feet away, Nagel elected to go small ball and manufacture the run in. There was just one problem. Hebrink had other plans.

“Tyler comes up and won’t even look at me,” Nagel said. “I thought it was unbelievable because he knew I was going to do it. He didn’t look purposely because he knew he was going to get a hit, and he did. I really wanted to go small ball.”

Before the inning began, Hebrink knew Bird Island was going to end the game here if he got a chance. He got his chance, and he delivered.

“We got into the dugout in the last inning, and we’re all fed up at this point,” Hebrink said. “I was up to bat fourth that inning, and I told the guys half joking and half serious that if I get up, we will win this game.”

A base hit up the middle  from Hebrink scored Athmann giving Bird Island a thrilling 3-2 walk-off win in the bottom of the 21st.

“He (Nagel) told me after the game he was thinking of doing a squeeze,” Hebrink said. “When I went up to the plate, I didn’t even think about that. Looking back, I absolutely should have thought about that. I was just ready to go. They had the infield in, and he was going to put it over the plate, and I was just going to try to get something to the outfield. In hindsight, I probably should have taken a step out and seen what he wanted to do, but it all worked out.”

At 12:14 a.m., the longest game in state tournament history ended. The time of the game was 5 hours and 36 minutes. There were more than 650 pitches thrown. There were 38 runners left on base. There were nine straight innings of the no-hit ball by the Bullfrogs. There was a major league pedigree on the field and in the stands. There was a little bit of everything.

“When you’ve been in baseball this long, you just respect a moment like this,” Nagel said. “It’s something that might never happen again. This might be my last state tournament. You never know. You just relish the time you’re there. That’s why I just sat there and was so content.”

Bird Island advances to play Red Win on Labor Day weekend following the marathon. Despite playing more than two games worth in one game, the Bullfrogs and the Larks left it all on the field and set a new state tournament record.

“When you play in this tournament, you need some kind of a moment that solidifies you and brings your team together,” Nagel said. “It’s all about that chemistry. This was our game. Whether we win anymore or not, and if we do, I think it’s because of what we had to go through. Almost every team that wins the state tournament has one game they were on the ropes at one point and very likely should have lost. I thought Loretto outplayed us.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

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REGION 12C PREVIEW: Anything can happen in Region 12C Tournament with deep field

Over the years, the North Star League and Region 12C have only gotten better and better. That was the case in 2022 as fans were treated to a thrilling regular season all year long as the NSL was loaded with talent from top to bottom.

An exciting season will continue as eight teams remain searching for a spot in the Class C State Tournament. With one of the deepest fields in years, the Region 12C Tournament hosted by the Litchfield Blues looks to be as exciting as ever.

The following is a preview of the first-round matchups for the Region 12C Tournament.

(1) Delano vs. (8) Loretto

Both these teams were playing in the Class C State Tournament a year ago. Now they meet in the first round of the Region 12C Tournament in the opening game. The A’s have been the top team in the North Star League all season long while the Loretto Larks have had a season filled with ups and downs. The Larks are coming into the region tournament after beating Rockford and Maple Plain in the league play-in games to secure the final spot.

When it comes to the A’s, it starts with their offense. One of the top-scoring teams in the state, Delano will be a tough out once again this postseason. The A’s are in their prime right now and will be looking to not only get back to the state tournament but also make a deep run as well.

Trevor Jaunich and Toby Hanson power the dangerous lineup for the A’s. Both have an average of over .400 to go along with some impressive power numbers. Jaunich led the team in home runs with six while Hanson finished with four.

Jack Paulson is another big bat to watch for Delano. He led the team with an average of .457 to go along with four home runs and 48 RBI.

Pitching has also taken a big step forward this season for the A’s. Delano has four players with three or more wins this season on the mound. Matt Arens led the way with five wins while Mike Weber and Jake Gleason each finished with four wins. Jake Nelson also racked up three wins.

For the Larks, it’s been a season filled with highs and lows. Loretto could never quite get things rolling with a hiccup at some point but found a way to get back to the Region 12C Tournament once again.

The offense has come alive lately with double-digit runs in their wins over Rockford and Maple Plain. Despite a record of just 10-14, the Larks have played well at times this season. Of their 14 losses, six of them have come by two runs or less. A play here or there goes their way and the Larks move up a handful of seeds but they enter the tournament as a dangerous No. 8 seed.

Keenan Hodgkin is the bat to watch for the Larks. Heading into the final stretch of the regular season, he led the league in hitting with an average of .585. He also led the league in doubles with 11. Ben Leuthner, Tyler Maher, Kent Koch, and Nathan Maher are other players to watch offensively for the Larks. Of course, Loretto also has former Twin Corey Koskie they can turn to in big spots like he did last season.

On the mound, the Larks will need to step up their game. That’s where the struggles have been this season but they’ve shown glimpses of being able to hold teams in check.

(4) Litchfield vs. (5) Buffalo 

One of the more interesting matchups in the first round is the Litchfield Blues taking on the Buffalo Bulldogs. The Blues are one of the most improved teams in the state while the Bulldogs are one of those teams who are talented yet just had a tough regular season.

Avery Liestman is worth the price of admission for fans alone. Becoming one of the premier talents in the NSL, Liestman and the Blues will be looking to keep their stellar season rolling on their home field under the bright lights of the Region 12C Tournament. For the season, Liestman had an average of .493 to go along with 10 doubles, two home runs, and 19 RBI. If that’s not enough, he also posted a 1.73 ERA in 62 innings with a record of 4-2 while racking up 69 strikeouts. Jack Ramthun and Joey Hyde are two other pitchers to watch for the Blues as they both picked up three wins this year.

Other players to watch offensively for Litchfield are Andrew Loch and Jake Jones. Loch posted an average of .326 to go along with 10 RBI while Jones hit .395 with six doubles and 19 RBI.

For Buffalo, they still have one of the top offenses in the league. It just hasn’t resulted in wins this year. The bats are still a huge problem to deal with for opposing teams as Buffalo had a team batting average of .305 this year.

Colton Haight, Justin Johnson, Brett Renshaw, and Cole LaPlante highlight the offense for the Bulldogs. All four have an average over .300. Johnson and Renshaw each had three home runs while Tommy Eckstein adds even more power to the lineup with four home runs himself.

Like the Loretto Larks, pitching will need to improve for the Bulldogs if they want to make some noise at the Region 12C Tournament. As a team, they posted an ERA of 5.66, a number that will need to improve.

John Weber and Jon Euerle come in as the top two pitchers for Buffalo. Euerle posted an ERA of 3.92 while Weber finished with an ERA of 3.99. Both finished with three wins along with Michael Weber and Carter Vogt. The Bulldogs don’t have a true ace and will rely on their entire pitching staff to make a run at the Region 12C Tournament.

(3) Maple Lake vs. (6) Howard Lake

Another interesting matchup in the first round features the Maple Lake Lakers and Howard Lake Orphans. These are two good teams that can beat anybody and will be on the top matchups in the first round. The Lakers and Orphans split their two regular-season matchups with both games decided by two runs or less. Howard Lake won a 3-2 matchup while Maple Lake won the second meeting by a score of 2-0.

The Orphans are a team that is starting to see their young talent pay off. It has them back at the region tournament and looking to get back to state after missing out in 2021.

Cole Macziewski is one of the top hitters to watch for the Orphans. He finished the year with an average of .375. Other key bats for Howard Lake to watch are Jared Koch, Brad Bickmann, and Matt Streich.

Koch has also been one of their top pitchers this season. Combine him with veteran and manager Mike Dockendorf and Howard Lake has a nice one-two punch to lead the way on the mound. Bickmann also has given the Orphans some big innings this year and is an arm to watch.

For Maple Lake, they’ve had another strong season and are looking to capitalize on it by reaching the state tournament. They’ve been consistent all season long and are a team to watch not only at the Region 12C Tournament but at the state tournament as well if they’re able to make it.

Maple Lake has five terrific hitters who have been putting together a strong season. Ben Clapp leads the way with a .436 average while Riley Decker, Hunter Malachek, Logan Orazem, and Donnie Mavencamp all have an average of .333 or better. Malachek leads the team in RBI with 31 while also showing some power with a team-best four home runs. Clapp leads the Lakers in doubles with 13 and is second in home runs with three while Brock Goelz has two home runs himself.

On the mound, Malachek has been just as good. In nine starts, he’s earned seven wins while posting an ERA of 1.75. Ben Reilley (0.64 ERA) and Luke Fobbe (0.93) are also two legit arms for the Lakers to lean on.

(2) Hutchinson vs. (7) Cokato

The Hutchinson Huskies come into the Region 12C Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the state. After getting off to a tough start, the Huskies have been lighting up the scoreboard and racking up the wins. The Huskies opened the season with a 1-5 record. Since then they have won 23-straight games, 16 of which have come by 10 or more runs.

For the Cokato Kernels, they’re looking to try and slow down the red-hot Huskies. Another strong year for them has the Kernels back in the region tournament and looking to steal a state tournament bid away from the top four seeds.

Leading the way for Hutchinson at the plate have been Jayden Fleck, Lane Glaser, Zach Kueseske, and Jake Wendland. All four have an average of over .400 on the season. Fleck has been on a tear all season long with nine home runs and 31 RBI. As a team, the Huskies have hit 30 home runs this year as the power of their lineup is something to watch.

The pitching has been very good for the Huskies as well this season. With a team ERA of 2.79, Hutchinson has shown they can win low-scoring games or pile up the runs with their powerful offense.

John DeRock is one of the top arms for the Huskies. He has an ERA of 1.74 in 46 innings of work. Kueseske has also been nearly unhittable with an ERA of 1.03 in 61 innings of work.

For the Kernels, they bring a mix of experience and young talent. They’ll be looking for that to gel and make a run this year. They’ve shown they can play with some of the best teams in the NSL and will try and do that once again and make a run as one of the two bottom seeds in the Region 12C Tournament.

PREP SOFTBALL: Stuckmayer has career day as Delano rolls past Mound Westonka

MOUND – There were a few nerves inside Delano’s Carly Stuckmayer heading into their matchup with Mound Westonka. They didn’t show. The sophomore had a career day at the plate and in the circle helping lead the Delano softball team to a 13-5 win over Mound Westonka Monday night.

“I was kind of scared at first,” Stuckmayer said “It went well though. It was nice hitting my first home run ever.”

Stuckmayer’s first career home run was just one part of the offense that helped lead the Tigers to their seventh win of the season. Delano scored double-digit runs for the fourth time this season showing their offense still has some power in the lineup.

“We’ve got a pretty young group,” Tigers coach Megan Vargo said. “Every day is just another step in the right direction. We’ve had our struggles though. The wins are coming and we’ve had our big wins but in that, we still need to grow. We’re not satisfied where we are.”

Delano had some big holes to fill in the lineup after losing several key players. The Tigers then lost their best player in Louisa Stowman before the season began to injury, but they’ve been up to the challenge. The key returning players are becoming leaders and the young talent is filling in nicely as the Tigers haven’t missed a beat so far this season.

“I think that seniors have been key,” Vargo said. “Then Louisa really hasn’t left. She’s been at every practice. She had surgery less than a week before the season started and still was at the first practice. She’s been huge in helping our outfielders and helping girls when they come in from at-bats. She just talks to them about the pitchers and what the defense is doing. Along with those other seniors, they’re an experienced group. We’ve got a lot of young and inexperienced kids with that and they’ve been fearless.”

Delano’s high-powered offense has also helped out the pitching staff in a big way. Making just her second start of the season, Stuckmayer had all the confidence she needed knowing her offense would back her up.

“That gives me a lot of confidence,” Stuckmayer said. “I know I’ll be backed up every time that I mess up or throw a bad pitch. It just makes me feel really good.”

“The scores have shown it,” Vargo added. “We have given up some runs. We’re working to tidy some of those things up. It allows (our pitchers) to go out free. If we get down after an inning, they know the offense is going to come up to the plate and we could plate six or seven runs. It gives them a little extra boost of confidence. If they miss one, it’s onto the next.”

While Vargo knew what the offense was capable of coming into this season, they surprise her at times in her first year as head coach.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Vargo said. “I watch a lot of college softball and see how they do things. We’re kind of doing the same. Any kid can hit the ball out of the park or hit a double in the blink of an eye. Especially at the high school level, it’s crazy that you can have that from one through nine. I enjoy it. These kids are showing how the hard work over the offseason is paying off.”

Delano is off to a strong start to the season with wins in seven of their first eight games. While things have started nicely, the Tigers know they got a long way to go to be where they want to be.

“It’s grind time,” Vargo said. “We only have three weeks until the postseason. It’s insane to say that. This is where we decide if we want to be good or do we want to be great. That’s really where we’re at. We’ve been putting up the runs and getting the wins, but it’s grind time. We got some good opponents coming up. It’s going to be a grind. It’s go time. They know that.”

“We just need to keep on hitting really well and keep on getting runs,” Stuckmayer added. “Offensively, we just need to be us.”

For the complete story and more Delano Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the May 6 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.  Subscribers have full access to this article and more by clicking here. Subscriptions start as low as $1.50 for a two-day subscription, the same price as a newspaper on a newsstand.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

 

PREP BASEBALL: SW Christian escapes with a win over Delano

DELANO – It was only fitting for the first nice day of the spring sports season to have the feeling of a playoff game. That was the case for the Delano baseball team as they hosted Southwest Christian in a Wright County Conference East matchup.

Both the Tigers and Stars got great starting pitching and made key plays throughout but it was Southwest Christian who escaped with an exciting 3-2 win over the Tigers Thursday night.

“It’s just about staying positive,” Delano coach Jeff Olson said about the message for his team after a tough loss. “It was a good competitive game between good teams with some good pitching. We just need to keep doing our thing and keep grinding and getting better every day. If we keep improving, we’ll be OK.”

Southwest Christian struck first in the top of the second thanks to a pair of Delano errors. The Stars pushed across two runs despite not collecting a hit as they took the first lead of the game.

It didn’t take long for the Tigers to answer. Cade Bruett got the rally started in the bottom of the second with an infield single. With two outs, Colin Lommel kept the inning alive with a single and advanced to second on the throw-in to put runners on second and third with two outs. Needing a clutch hit, Will Ricke delivered for the Tigers with an RBI single to left to tie the game at two.

“Something we talk about is responding to whatever it may be,” Olson said. “That was nice to see. That was huge for our team and our momentum. We’re showing early that we can battle back. It’s great to see.”

Southwest Christian would retake the lead in the top of the fourth on an RBI single from Melvin Maldonado. The Stars would have a great chance to extend their lead in the fifth, but AJ Rasmussen and his defense worked out of a bases-loaded jam with one out. Needing a big day, Delano delivered as Oran Hinkle and Drew Dorsey turned a huge double play up the middle to keep the deficit at one.

Over the final three innings, Delano had plenty of chances to tie the game or even take the lead. In their final three innings of hitting, the Tigers left three runners on base including having a runner thrown out at home in the bottom of the seventh as the Stars held on for the win.

Rasmussen was tagged with the loss despite a strong performance on the mound. He went all seven innings allowing just one earned run off of eight hits while striking out 10. Rasmussen gave the Tigers a chance in the seventh. After giving up a leadoff double, he struck out three-straight batters to keep the deficit at one.

“AJ is our No. 1,” Olson said. “Then we’ve got other pitchers who can do the same thing for us. He gives us a great chance to win every time he goes out there. He’s going to compete and be a leader.”

Offensively, Delano had five players record at least one hit in the win. They got production from all over the lineup in big spots which is something Olson hopes his team can continue as the season progresses.

“Any good team is going to have that and you can’t just rely on the top of the lineup,” Olson said. “Other guys will have to step up and they did. We’ll try to keep building.”

For the complete story and more Delano Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the April 29 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.  Subscribers have full access to this article and more by clicking here. Subscriptions start as low as $1.50 for a two-day subscription, the same price as a newspaper on a newsstand.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports