Archive for DEL Sports

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

 

KOVAR: Women’s sports have come a long way and so have I

It’s the 50th anniversary of one of the most important moments in sports history. No, I’m not talking about the anniversary of Jack Nicklaus winning The Masters and the US Open back to back for his 10th and 11 majors. No, I’m not talking about the Dallas Cowboys winning their first Super Bowl with a 24-3 win over the Miami Dolphins. I’m talking about the passing of Title IX.

It wasn’t very long ago that I was one of those stereotypical males who thought female sports were boring. I fell into the trap of the idea that men’s sports are superior and women’s sports are a waste of time. Boy was I wrong and have I changed.

Attending a Final Four was always a dream of mine ever since I started playing the game of basketball and fell in love with it. That dream became a reality when Minneapolis hosted the Men’s Final Four in 2019. I not only got to attend the Final Four, but also the championship game, a moment I’ll never forget.

March Madness has been my favorite sporting event ever since I got into sports. I still remember how cool it was that my 7th-grade teacher Mr. Shipler would let us watch some of the games on the first day in class. I still remember being forced to go to bed before the games ended on a school night only to sneak out of bed and go downstairs to catch the final moments. I’m sure my parents fully knew what was going on.

March Madness and sports have always been a huge part of my life. From playing them or just simply being a fan and watching, sports hold a special place in my heart. They’ve helped me get through some tough times. They’ve presented experiences and opportunities that I’ve never thought would be possible.

Growing up, it was always men’s sports though. I hardly ever turned on the WNBA or even attended high school sports other than volleyball. My high school basketball coach even made us attend a few girls basketball games throughout the season as a team, but in reality, none of us really wanted to be there.

I admit that I was one of the cliché guys who thought women’s sports were boring. I’ll also admit I was wrong.
Over the years, not only have I matured and changed that narrow-minded thinking, but female sports as a whole have taken off in popularity and most of them are now getting the coverage they deserve. There’s still some work to do though.

This past weekend I attended the Final Four once again but this time on the women’s side. It was never a dream or a goal to attend one years ago, but I’m so glad I got to go this year. More than 18,000 women’s college basketball fans packed the Target Center as UCONN and South Carolina played for the National title. As I was walking around the arena before the game started, I counted more than a dozen females walking around wearing Minnesota high school apparel. Maybe some of them were there just to see Paige Bueckers. Maybe some of them wanted to be a part of something special.

It’s the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Women’s sports have come a long way. I have come a long way. For those of you who are still stuck in the idea that men’s sports are far superior to women’s sports, give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

PREP SOFTBALL: Delano’s Stowman signs with Wayne State University

DELANO – There was a time in Louisa Stowman’s life when she dreamed of being able to play at the collegiate level. Flash forward to the present, and that dream is now a reality for the Delano senior as she officially signed with Wayne State University Tuesday afternoon to continue her softball career and achieve a lifelong dream.

“I remember telling my dad that I wanted to play at the highest level possible and that I was ready for the challenge,” Stowman said. “I knew it was something I wanted and it is a huge achievement for me to be able to actually have it play out.”

Stowman had a decision to make on where she wanted to play following high school. She could have either played Division II or III, but opted for the challenge by picking Wayne State.

“My decision was left to choose between a Division II school and a Division III school,” Stowman said. “I really fell in love with the coaches at Wayne State and their honesty. Along with the team and the smaller community similar to home.”

Throughout Stowman’s career, hard work has been at the center of it. Often playing and working on her game throughout the season and the off-season, she’s seen all her hard work pay off in a big way.

“I feel like it is so many young girls’ dream to be able to play at that next level,” Stowman said. “To me, every minute that goes into getting better at softball counts. I’m very proud of the achievements I’ve made and how it has paid off, but I know that it doesn’t stop there.”

Like every athlete, Stowman has a great support system along the way helping her develop as a player and her love for the game.

“Every single teammate and coach I’ve been on a team with has helped push me to the player I am today,” Stowman said. “It is truly a team sport and we can all feed off of each other. I have met some of my best friends and learned so much from the coaches. I know that those relationships and the memories that were made will never be forgotten. I love that I can channel my emotions into the game and into getting better.”

Stowman making it official has come at the perfect time. After realizing she would have to miss her senior season due to having surgery, it helped ease the pain of not getting to play in her final season in a Delano uniform.

“It means a lot to me,” Stowman said. “Especially right now because I am missing out on my senior year.”
Just because Stowman won’t be on the field for the Tigers this season doesn’t mean she won’t be around the diamond. Her presence on the field will be missed greatly, but you can count on her being around the park each and every day to support her teammates.

“Although I can’t play this year, I will still be the best teammate for my team and a leader for the younger girls,” she said. “Injuries are a part of playing sports, but what matters the most is how you come back from them.”
Stowman is more than ready to come back from her injury. Already working hard to get back to where she was a year ago, the standout high school player is focused on the physical and mental parts of the game in order to get back on track to accomplish her goals.

“I’m doing everything I can to regain my physical strength back, but In the meantime really working on the mental factor,” Stowman said. “Both the physical and mental factors are a huge part of how I play the game. I’m working hard to be able to start swinging a bat and getting back to the basics, but also keeping in mind I can’t rush my recovery because I have huge goals for my future at Wayne State.”

PREP FOOTBALL: Legendary Delano football coach Merrill Pavlovich retires after four decades of coaching

DELANO – For 46 years, there’s been only one man pacing the sidelines as head coach of the Delano football team. Come this fall, there will be a new face.

Over the span of four decades, Merrill Pavlovich has been the leader for the Tigers on the sidelines. After winning more than 300 games, the legendary high school football coach is hanging it up.

“There are several reasons,” Pavlovich said about stepping down. “Age is one of them. I’m going to be 75 in April. It’s been a long time that I’ve been doing this. I’ve always had the rule of thumb that when I get up in the morning, if I look forward to going out to the field and enjoying it, then I’ll stay. That’s been my rule of thumb. The last couple of years has taken a toll on me. That made me think that it might be time and I think it is time.”

The last two years of coaching have been anything but easy for Pavlovich. After playing just four games in 2020 as teams across the state battled COVID-19, 2021 was a tough year as well for Delano competing in one of the toughest districts in the state.

When the Minnesota State High School made the switch to districts in 2015 instead of playing a conference schedule, that was a move that didn’t sit well with Pavlovich. Delano has often been put in districts that requires more travel than most teams in the state while also playing schools much bigger than them as well.

“I think district football has been nothing but a nightmare,” Pavlovich said. “Three years ago, we played Moorhead. There wasn’t a team in the state of Minnesota that traveled farther than we did to play them. We passed many school districts that we could have played on the way up there. Then the school we played was two and a half times bigger than we were. The matchups were absolutely terrible.”

The move to districts hasn’t always been bad for Delano. Often in the same district as the Becker Bulldogs, a friendship and rivalry has developed over the years between two of the top coaches in high school football history in Minnesota.

“​​Pav and I have been competing against each other on the gridiron for 40 plus years,” Becker coach Dwight Lundeen said. “District changes have separated Becker and Delano at times, but we have always stayed connected with scrimmages and lower level games.”

Pavlovich and Lundeen rank among the best when it comes to wins in high school football in Minnesota.
As his coaching career comes to an end, Pavlovich is ranked fifth in state history with 315 career wins. Lundeen, still an active coach, is ranked third with 382 wins. Between the two friends and rivals, they’ve combined for nearly 700 total wins.

“Our lives have somewhat paralleled each other as coaches, activities directors, and executive secretaries of our conference,” Lundeen said. “He has been very successful as a football coach, leading Delano to over 300 wins in his 40 years of coaching. Only good coaches win that many games.”

“I can’t recall all of those 40 years of coaching,” Pavlovich added. “I don’t know where all the wins came from. They went by in a hurry. When I look at a list like that, there are some great names. We won a lot of games that we shouldn’t have and we lost a lot of games that we shouldn’t have either.”

While Pavlovich and Lundeen certainly had their rivalries over the years, their friendship remains the most important thing.

“I am blessed to call Pav my friend,” Lundeen said. “At times when I needed help with our football program, Pav was often my first call. He would always listen and help me work things out. I appreciate his willingness to work for the good of Minnesota high school football. I wish him nothing but the best in his retirement. and I look forward to joining him on Lake Vermillion. I know he can find a 28-inch walleye for me.”

Pavlovich’s presence won’t only be missed by other coaches he competed against, but also by his players. In his four decades of coaching at Delano High School, the number of kids and their names that he’s molded and shaped goes on and on.

“I’ve got a pretty good memory yet,” Pavlovich said. “It’s surprising how many kids I can still see their numbers in my head. They’ll come up and talk to me and I’ll say ‘Hey, 83. It’s just kind of funny that way. One year of our football camp, I put a list of kids that have been in our program in the paper. It covered the whole page. To do that today, it would be even more difficult because there are so many more names.”

To be a coach for 40 years is nearly unheard of in today’s day and age. To do it all at the same place is even rarer. While Pavlovich admits his coaching career has flown by, he won’t hesitate to admit that he enjoyed it all.

“One of the toughest things about how long I’ve coached is there is no way I can recall those 40 years of coaching,” Pavlovich said. “I don’t know where they went. They went by so fast. When those years go by so quickly, that’s a sign that you’ve probably enjoyed what you’re doing and I really did.”

Pavlovich came to Delano in 1970 from the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. In his 50-plus years of being in Delano, he never left as he knew it would be a good home for him. While Delano certainly has changed over the years of his coaching career, it’s all been for the better on and off the field.

“I came here in 1970 and I never left,” Pavlovich said. “I had some opportunities to go elsewhere but I chose to stay here. It’s been a great community. I came from the Iron Range. Every school had an auditorium, football field, and a swimming pool. We had the best of the best in the Iron Range. I never bought a tennis shoe, a piece of paper or anything. It was always provided for you. When I got to Delano in 1970, it was like the Iron Range was driving a Cadillac and Delano was driving an old Chevrolet. Nearly 50 years later, it’s all reversed. We have outstanding facilities and a great school system.”

Coaching hasn’t always been easy for Pavlovich, especially of late. In his early years of coaching, he was often surrounded by the same people every season. As the years went on and he got older, those same people began to disappear around him.

“That was another reason for me stepping down,” Pavlovich said. “I went to a funeral this summer for a good friend. That was hard on me because we’ve been friends for as long as I’ve coached. I lost a lot of my assistants along the way too. When you lose all those people, it kind of takes away from some of the fun you’ve established over the years. We’ve been through so many years together. We came from the same era.”

While Delano’s staff with Pavlovich has changed over the years, one thing has remained the same. When fans attend a Delano football game, they’ll know exactly what they will see each and every game before kickoff.

“One of the things I’ve always been proud of the Delano football team is if you ever watch us when the National Anthem is being played, we’re in the end zone, our helmets are on the left side, and hands are across our chest,” he said. “There’s no disrespect. We practice it one time and the kids know from that point on. Everyone is paying respect to that time and to the flag.”

While the faces have changed along the end zone line over the years, there are some familiar faces as well. The bonus of coaching for more than four decades means that some of the players you coach just might want to come back and help once they moved on.

“When I look down that end zone, one of the best moments I’ve ever had is looking and seeing how many assistant coaches are former players,” Pavlovich said. “There’s probably 15 or 16 guys that have given their time back to the program. I think that always says a lot about your program. They came back wanting to give something back to the program they left.”

As Pavlovich moves on from his storied coaching career, he’ll still be around the game. You can also find him out on Lake Vermilion wetting a line, but just don’t ask him for his hot spot. If he’s not out on the lake, you can bet you’ll find him in the stands under the Friday Night Lights taking in a game that he’s given so much to over the years.

“Coming up in the fall, I like to fish and want to spend more time on Lake Vermilion,” he said. “I’ll also get the opportunity to get out and see other games. You’re kind of restricted to games you see when you’re coaching. Now I’ll have a chance to go out and see other teams play a bit.”

 

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

Important Winstock Ticket Alert and a Few Words From the Man Himself

SPONSORED POST – With the Early Bird Deadline ending tomorrow and prices increase, Winstock Country Music Festival organizers are encouraging fans to get their tickets soon – not only to save money – but to also ensure tickets are available.

“I know it seems like a marketing gimmick, but if everyone we project purchases tickets prior to the early bird deadline, it is very likely there won’t be many left for purchase after March 15,” said Winstock Country Music Festival Committee Chairman Dave Danielson. “It could sell out earlier than ever this year. We said it a few months ago, but if you have campsites already purchased, please make sure everyone in your group has their tickets secured by the early bird deadline to guarantee they won’t miss out.

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VIP, Reserved Seats, and Campgrounds A, B, C, and D for the June 17-18 event in Winsted have already sold out. This is the earliest in its history that reserved seats have sold out, and general admission tickets and campsites have also been selling fast. After March 15, general admission tickets will increase from $140 to $155 for the weekend. Beginning June 1 through the event, the cost is $175 for the weekend, pending availability.

DON’T DELAY – GET YOURS TODAY! Visit shop.winstockfestival.com or call (320) 485-4287. #Winstock22

MORE INFORMATION
For additional announcements, ticket information, and everything Winstock, go to WinstockFestival.com and sign up for Winstock Email news. Be sure to follow the festival on Twitter @WinstockMN, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.