Archive for DEL Sports

PREP SOCCER: Chemistry, relationships key to turnaround of Delano soccer teams

This isn’t the same soccer program fans saw a season ago. In just one short season, the Delano boys and girls soccer teams this year have taken huge steps forward and it’s all because of one simple reason.

“Being a team,” Delano girls soccer coach Pat Prindle said about the biggest change from a season ago. “Just being a team and the confidence that comes with it. There’s just no drama. This group is just playing and they’re working for something. They want to improve. It’s building things up. The seniors are leading and the younger girls are building up to.”

A season ago, the boys and girls soccer teams combined for just seven wins. This year, both teams have hit the double digit mark in wins as they’ve combined for 23 wins this year.

“The biggest thing is chemistry,” Delano boys coach Tristin Griffin said. “These guys want it. They want to play together. Next man up is their mentality. Last year, it wasn’t that way. It was all about me. They’re putting in the work. It’s all kudos to them.”

For the Delano boys, the goal was 12 wins this season. The Tigers have already hit that mark with their win over Big Lake to end the regular season.

“That was our goal going into this season,” Griffin said. “Then it’s just building success. Going into our section, which is tough, we want success going in and to be ready for that.”

It took the Tigers just three games this season to match their win total from a season ago. It took just four games to surpass it as they opened the season on a four-game winning streak.

“Honestly, just being bonded has been big for us as a team,” Nick Farniok said. “Last year ,we were kind of disconnected and didn’t really have any chemistry. This year, we get along way better and it’s good times. We’ve had lots of fun this year.”

Delano’s fourth win of the season came on the road against Princeton. Not only was it a win on the road, it was a memory for the guys to remember.

“After last year with just three wins and now we have 12 is awesome,” Griffin said. “To see the guys happy is what it’s about. All the guys said the bus ride home from Princeton was one of their best memories. That’s what you want. You want those memories.”

The season for both the boys and the girls have been very similar. Both teams got off to hot starts only to lose a key player to injury. The Delano boys team lost leading scorer Will Strandemo for a period of time while the girls team lost a leader and all-around great player in Sidney Schmit for the season with an injury. Despite that, the wins kept coming.

“It’s that next man up mentality,” Griffin said. “These guys trust each other. They know the next guy up is going to come in and make plays. The next guys up are making plays and we’re still winning.”

“It’s obviously a big loss to lose a player like Sidney,” Prindle added. “I think what it’s done is that it’s made the team adapt, develop, and find different ways to play. It’s made players mature. It’s become how do we make things happen.”

Both the Delano boys and girls teams enter the postseason not satisfied. They’ll look to not only continue to pick up wins, but also to make more memories along the way in their turnaround seasons.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

SECTION 5AA GIRLS TENNIS: Delano’s depth shines as Tigers top Buffalo in section semifinals

ROGERS – Depth has been the key for the Delano girls tennis team this season. That’s been put to the test down the stretch this season but the Tigers have been up for the challenge.

With multiple lineup changes throughout the past few matches, one thing has remained constant for the Tigers – they’re winning matches.

With a 5-2 win over Buffalo Monday, Delano is headed to the Section 5AA championship where they’ll look to keep their impressive season rolling.

“All in all, the girls played well,” Delano coach Kim Finn said. “They were ready. They’re good players. They’re neighbors so we kind of know each other well. It was a nice win.”

Kaitlyn Pink set the tone for Delano at No. 3 singles with a dominant 6-0, 6-0 win. That kept her perfect record intact as she picked up the first win of the day for Delano.

After a win at No. 1 singles and No. 4 singles gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead, Aubrey Wittwer delivered for the Tigers with a 6-2, 6-2 victory at No. 2 singles.

“Both Audrey and Kaitlyn are true competitors,” Finn said. “With those two, I know I can put them anywhere and they are going to compete. That’s nice to have.”

CJ Stolfa and Sydney Trautman would add a win at No. 3 doubles to give Delano a 3-2 lead. That set up Addie Persian and Isabelle King to clinch the win for the Tigers with a 7-5, 6-2 win at No. 2 doubles sending Delano to the section championship match.

“It feels wonderful,” Finn said. “It’s been a while. It’s been a great season.”

“It feels really good,” Olivia Bekkala added. “Having it be my senior year and going this far is pretty exciting.”

Bekkala and teammate Katelyn Ring put the finishing touches on the win at No. 1 doubles for the Tigers. They won their match to complete the sweep of all three doubles matches for Delano.

Delano’s run to section championship match has been an impressive story. It’s taken an entire team willing to do whatever it takes. About a month before the postseason began, Finn decided to mix up the lineup and move Bekkala from No. 1 singles to No. 1 doubles.

“I love doubles too because it’s really fun,” Bekkala said about the switch. “I love playing with Katelyn. If it gets the team a point, that’s all that matters. I’m fine playing wherever.”

With Bekkala making the move to doubles, that forced the other singles players to step up as well. Bella Molitor has moved up to No. 1 singles, while Wittwer and Pink have stepped up their games as well.

“It’s paid off,” Finn said. “We had to make a change. I’m very proud of the way the girls have stood up. That’s what is nice about having a deep team. We have a deep team with a lot of equal abilities. You can put them anywhere and they’ll do the job.”

Changes to the lineup have been nothing new for the Tigers. Even as recently as last week, the changes kept coming but so have the wins.

“With all the stuff going on, it just shows with our team that we’re able to do it,” Bekkala said. “I think we’re just a really strong team.”

Delano will take on Maple Grove in the Section 5AA championship Thursday. Maple Grove knocked off No. 1 Wayzata 5-2 in their semifinal matchup. It will be the second time Delano and Maple Grove have faced off this season.

“I think they’re going to be coming back with a different lineup than the last time we played them,” Finn said. “I think they were a little surprised when we played them.”

Delano beat Maple Grove 5-2 in their lone matchup earlier this season, but Finn knows how much things can change since that matchup.

“We’ll just see,” Finn said about the matchup. “It’s always game by game. I’ll prepare them differently this time than we did Buffalo. I know they’re thinking we already beat them but it’s a whole different ball game now.”

For the complete story and more Delano Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Oct. 15 edition of the Delano 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 VOLLEYBALL: Delano sweeps Becker on Youth Night

DELANO – Just a handful of years ago, Delano’s Corby Menz and Grace Danielson were sitting in the bleachers watching the Delano volleyball team on youth night. Flash forward to Tuesday night, and those two were the ones on the floor playing in the big matchup in front of the young fans. Menz and Danielson put on a show for their fans, leading Delano to a 3-0 (25-18, 25-14, 25-15) win over Becker Tuesday night.

“You could hear them celebrating when we won,” Menz said about playing in front of the future Tigers. “It’s just so hard to think that that was us like six years ago. It’s cool to be playing for those little girls that we used to be.”

Menz and the rest of the Tigers knew how important a night like tonight was. When Delano coach Becca Rue talked to them before the game, the message was clear.

“Before the match, I told the girls that they are huge role models to all these little girls,” Rue said. “I just want them to leave wanting to be like you guys when they’re older.”

Mission accomplished.

Delano played one of their most complete games of the season on their way to securing the sweep. Coming off a loss to Southwest Christian despite playing well, the Tigers kept their momentum rolling into their matchup with the Bulldogs.

“I thought we played really well against Southwest Christian,” Rue said. “We took the first set and then we were right there in the second set. I thought that was some of our best serve/receive and defense. This is the time of year we want to be playing our best. I feel like even that loss was a confidence booster. They just carried it over to tonight.”

“Southwest Christian was a good test,” Menz added. “We definitely could have done some things better in that match. Taking that first set was a great goal and accomplishment for this team. This week, our goal was just to play hard, be aggressive, and be loud. That’s what we did.”

Delano did just that against Becker keeping them off balance all game long at the net. With a rowdy group behind her, Danielson had everything working for the Tigers as all her weapons were firing on all cylinders.

“We wanted to push ourselves,” Danielson said. “Our communication got so much better from last week.”

“She’s a really smart setter,” Rue added about Danielson. “She kind of knows when someone is on and she keeps going to her. She does a good job of mixing it up. She’s not easy to read so that’s a strength for her.”

The energy and chemistry for the Tigers were on full display in the win. That’s something that will be the key for them going forward as they look to finish the regular season strong heading into the postseason.

“That just helps that we all have such a great friendship with one another,” Menz said. “We can be goofy during timeouts and between sets and that just helps us that much more on the court because we have that much chemistry when we’re playing together. We can trust one another.”

“Even if someone is having a bad game, we’re all just dancing and having a good time,” Danielson added. “It helps forget about it. I think we’re a hard team to beat when we get a first pass side out. Our offense is strong and we have threats all over.”

With just four games left in the regular season, Delano knows how important it is to keep the momentum rolling to make the postseason run they want.

“Lots of energy,” Rue said about what she’s looking for from her team. “When we communicate and have energy, our feet move and the ball doesn’t drop. Ultimately, at this point of the season, the team that lets fewer balls drop is going to win. That’s what we’re looking for down the stretch.”

For the complete story and more Delano Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Oct. 8 edition of the Delano 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 


AMATEUR BASEBALL: Former Twin Corey Koskie soaking in town ball experience

LORETTO – Corey Koskie was a fan favorite for the Minnesota Twins during his seven-year career with the team. Now after 15 years, the former Twin is back on the baseball diamond once again, but this time around, in Loretto Larks jersey playing town ball baseball.

Koskie has two sons (Bradley and Joshua) on the team, and after some convincing from his oldest son, decided this would be the year he returned to baseball and play for the Larks.

“Both Bradley and Joshua have been playing with the Larks,” Koskie said. “Bradley has been on me for a while to join. With two of them playing now, I thought it would be a good time to go and play. I have another one coming up right below him that will play next year so I wanted to get my feet wet a little bit this year.”

Koskie was certainly around the Larks through the season before he joined. After a matchup with the Delano A’s, he approached Loretto manager Kent Koch with the thought of suiting up.

“That’s one of the cooler parts,” Koch said. “When he first approached my dad and me after the Delano game this year, he said he was kind of interested in playing. My dad and I looked at each other wondering how serious was this.”

It was serious.

Koskie officially joined the team shortly before the signing deadline. In fact, it came down to the very last day to get him on the roster.

“We had to jump through a few hoops to make sure we had all the documentation we needed to get the state board approval,” Koch said. “It literally came down to the final day of the signing deadline. We got the paperwork submitted and he got his four games in to be eligible for the postseason. Then we had to decide where we’re going to put him in the lineup.”

Koskie made his debut for the Larks July 7 in a home game against the Montrose-Waverly Stingers. He found himself in the No. 6 spot as things started to get real for him as he was about to play his first game in 15 years.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Koskie said. “I hadn’t picked up a bat in 15 years. My concern was running to first base. I didn’t want to get hurt. I had no really expectations going in. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I wanted to enjoy it for what it is.”

Koskie’s debut for the Larks was a success. He finished the game going 2-for-2 with a home run, two walks, and four RBI in a 10-0 win for the Larks.

“I kind of surprised myself my first game,” Koskie said. “I was on base every time and my legs were pretty tired and all I did was DH and run a bit. I wanted to go out there and enjoy the experience and play with my kids with no pressure. Just go up there and hit and have fun while enjoying it. I didn’t want to deal with uber-competitive people on the other side. I didn’t want to deal with egos and hurt feelings. I just wanted to have fun and enjoy it.”

Koskie’s transition to town ball has been a unique one. He’s known about the game since his playing days with the Twins, and now being able to be part of it again with his kids is something he’s enjoying.

“I’ve known about town ball,” Koskie said. “Dave St. Peter is a big component of town ball. I’ve played in some exhibition games right after I retired. I was able to see the quality of baseball and the parks in these small little towns. It was really cool.”

While the knowledge of town ball has been there for a while, there’s one thing that surprised him in the first season. He knew the level of talent would be there, but the amount of competitiveness in each game is something that came as a surprise to the former major leaguer.

“Here are the things that surprised me about town ball,” Koskie said. “These guys take it seriously. This isn’t beer league baseball. This is serious baseball. Guys take it really seriously and they compete. That’s kind of one thing that did surprise me.”

The season for Koskie has been filled with ups and downs. While he’s experienced the different side of things so far this season, it’s been a learning experience throughout.

“It’s taken a little bit of a transition,” Koskie said.  “For not playing for 15 years, I’m just trying to get comfortable. I wasn’t really knowing what to expect. I just wanted to play with my boys. I wasn’t really ready for competitive at-bats and meaningful at-bats. I didn’t want to be the reason why the team didn’t get to go to where they wanted to go. It’s one of those things to get comfortable with failure again and just playing with the kids. It took a little bit for me to get set.”

Coming back to the game after 15 years away from it hasn’t been easy for Koskie. He’ll be the first to tell you.

“There’s really no such thing as going out and playing pickup baseball with the guys,” Koskie said. “You’re playing town ball. You’re in front of people playing at 10 percent of the ability that you had. There’s the ego and pride thing that goes into that. You want to compete. You don’t want to get beat. At the end of the day, baseball is a battle. It’s you against the pitcher. The pitcher against you. Who’s going to win that? That’s the core of an at-bat.”

Koskie’s approach at the plate has been different as well. In the prime of his career, focusing during an at-bat has been one of his biggest strengths. Now 15 years later, he’s had to work on that more than he normally has.

“I had a 15-year lag between at-bats,” Koskie said. “It doesn’t come as natural for me. It’s somewhat fascinating. One thing I find super interesting is the ability to focus during an at-bat. The ability to completely focus 100 percent of your focal energy on the pitcher and be able to block out all the sounds and be able to control your mind, your thoughts, and your breathing to give you the best chance to have a quality swing. That’s something I was able to do. Now, I come back and my head is all over the place. When I played before, I was laser-focused and nothing could distract me at that moment. Now it’s a little easier to get distracted.”

While Koskie certainly hasn’t been perfect by any means for the Larks, he’s come through in some big spots for the Larks this year. In the Region 12C Tournament, Koskie delivered the game-tying RBI single in the top of the ninth. His team would go on to win the game in 12 innings, thanks to the baseball gods being on their side.

Buffalo had the chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, but the ball got stuck in the ivy on the right-field fence, holding the game-winning run at third. Loretto would get out of the jam and later on win the game in the 12th.

“The ball that got stuck in the ivy is semi reminiscent of the ball I hit in the playoffs against the Yankees off of Mariano Rivera,” Koskie said. “I hit one down the line and it bounced out. We would have taken the lead in the top of the 9th in that one. The ball bounced out instead of rattling around in the corner and it costs us a run. That was good for us that the ball got stuck in the ivy because they for sure would have scored that run.”

Dealing with success and failure is part of baseball. Koskie knows that full well and that’s helped him keep a positive attitude even when his swing might not be there.

“If you really want to get a hit and you don’t get a hit, the feeling you get sucks,” Koskie said. “There’s frustration and you really want to get a hit and don’t get one for eight or 10 at-bats. People don’t understand how hard that is to deal with from a mental standpoint. Baseball is the only game where you’re forced to deal with failure. No other game is like that.  I’m a 10th of who I was 10 years ago.”

Throughout the year, Koskie has been a nice addition to the lineup for the Larks at the plate and in the dugout. Whether it’s coming through with a base hit or just lending some advice to a teammate, Koskie’s presence is a big reason the Larks are where they are at.

“He’s definitely a nice bat to add in the lineup,” Koch said. “Both on and off the field, he’s just a real wealth of information and fun guy to sit around and talk to. He’s always trying to help out or give tips. He’s been helpful to have around in a coach-type role as well. He’s still the guy who comes in and works hard in the cage. It’s been fun to see him come through in some big situations. Hearing the ball come off his bat sometimes it just comes off a little different than anybody else. He’s been awesome to have. He’s always joking around and having fun with the guys on the bench. He’s an all-around good guy to have around.”

For veteran Tyler Maher, the season has been one to remember. After watching Koskie play growing up to now sharing a dugout with him, this season has been one to remember.

“It’s been awesome playing with Corey,” Maher said. “Not only because it’s one of the players I watched growing up, but just being an overall great human being.  He has unique perspectives on the game and has a wealth of knowledge. Typically, if you want any of that info, you just have to ask him. Having him on our team, with his experience and overall character has elevated the level of play from everyone.”

Koch has also got to experience playing amateur baseball with his family. It’s something special that he’s getting to see a former Koskie do that now right in front of him.

“They’ve gotten to play a few games together now,” Koch said. “There’s been a few times in the lineup where Corey has been hitting in front of Bradley or behind him. There are a few times he’s hit him in. When you get to drive in your younger kid with a base hit, that’s just a cool story in general. It’s just a cool thing when it’s family like that.”

Loretto will kick off their state tournament run Friday night in Chaska as they take on the Dumont Saints. With a taste of amateur baseball under his belt, Koskie is now excited to see what the state tournament brings as he’ll be playing alongside his boy this weekend.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Koskie said. “I’m really excited to see this. My kids have been playing in state tournaments throughout their whole youth sports experience. I’m excited to be part of this state tournament run hopefully and to see what that experience is.”

REGION 12C ROUNDUP: Huskies, Athletics punch state tickets; two spots still up for grabs

DELANO — Serving as the mecca of Region 12C amateur baseball this August, Delano Municipal Stadium was full for multiple days last weekend as the region playoffs began and two teams have already earned berths to the State Tournament. Here’s the game-by-game rundown of what happened.

Hutchinson 8, Maple Plain 1

The Huskies lived up to their top seed billing quickly in round one, dispatching the Diamond Devils 8-1 Aug. 5. Jon DeRock tossed eight innings and allowed seven hits and one run, while Tyler Schiller’s hot bat kept sizzling with a home run.

Leading 4-0 after six innings, the Devils got one back in the top of the seventh, but a four-run eighth by Hutchinson pushed this one out of reach at the end. Jayden Fleck added two RBI while Marcus Hahn and Cody Arlt drove in runs as well.

Howard Lake 3, Loretto 1

The 4/5 matchup in a tournament is often the best game and can go either way. The Orphans got just as much as they needed to win against the higher-seeded Larks of Loretto Aug. 6, taking the game 3-1.

It was a pitcher’s duel from the start, neither team scoring until the fifth inning when Loretto got an RBI hit from Ben Leuthner. Howard Lake’s Jared Koch was masterful getting out of jams with runners on base while his team’s offense came alive just enough to take the lead late in the game.

Noah Bush was 3-for-4 and Jake Gruenhagen drove in two runs for the Orphans. Brad Bickmann added four hits. For the Larks, seven batters got on base but some baserunning mistakes cost them runners.

Buffalo 6, Litchfield 5

Brett Renshaw and Colton Haight were the heroes of the day for the Bulldogs, who scored three runs over the final two innings to beat Litchfield 6-5 in walk-off fashion Aug. 7.

Renshaw’s two-run blast in the eighth tied up the game at 5 after Litch broke a stalemate the inning before. Then Haight  laced an RBI single in the ninth inning to end the game right there for the Buffalo victory.

The two batters combined for four RBI, and Jake Duske added a home run early on. Andrew Loch and Jake Jones drove home four for the Blues.

Delano 6, Maple Lake 5

It’s tough to win when you get outhit 10-5, but the A’s overcame some wild innings to get the last run in extras, defeating the Lakers of Maple Lake 6-5 in 10 frames Aug. 7.

A three-run Toby Hanson bomb in the third inning put Delano up 4-1 and in control, but Maple Lake kept chipping away against reliever Austin Schneider. A run scored in the seventh tied up the game at five, and then a keen eye by the A’s lineup put runners in place to score the winning run. Adam Schleper poked a single through the left side to score Jeff Althoff and walk off on the Lakers.

Hutchinson 6, Howard Lake 3

With a state berth on the line, the Huskies got a stellar outing from Jeremiah Van De Steeg to hold off the Orphans 6-3 Aug. 7 and stay undefeated in the region playoffs.

Tyler Schiller homered for the second time in as many games, and Matt Piechowski, Jake Wendland and Cody Arlt all posted multi-hit games.

Cole Macziewski and Moose Streich tallied the RBI for Howard Lake, but the Orphans couldn’t muster more than one run in an inning to rally back. Brad Bickmann and Brock Goelz added two hits each.

Riley Gruenhagen tossed six innings allowing seven hits, while Van De Steeg went six and one-thirds innings while striking out six batters.

Loretto 8, Maple Plain 7

The Diamond Devils’ season ended in heartbreak in the elimination bracket of Region 12C Aug. 8, falling to Loretto 8-7 on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Maher.

Loretto jumped ahead 5-2 in the first inning with a three-run homer by Josh Gullickson, but Maple Plain wouldn’t fold that easily. They put up four scores in the fifth to take a 7-5 lead with a trio of singles.

Then an outfield error by Maple Plain proved costly in the seventh. Loretto’s Keenan Hodgkin singled home the advanced runners to tie it up, and Maher’s sac fly in the ninth ended another tight Region 12C game, keeping the Larks alive and the Devils eliminated.

Maple Lake 10, Litchfield 2

The Laker offense hummed nearly every inning as they pushed past Litchfield 10-2 Aug. 8 to stay alive in Region 12C elimination bracket play.

Donnie Mavencamp added up three RBI and Ben Clapp had two runs driven in for Maple Lake. Grant Mergen tossed six quality innings to hold down the Blues.

Litchfield had two hits and two RBI by leadoff man Cody Klabunde, but Avery Liestman, Dylan Koll and Jack Ramthun couldn’t hold off a Maple Lake offense that wanted big revenge after a 10-inning loss to Delano the day before.

Delano 9, Buffalo 6

Early offense and shutdown pitching against one of the best lineups in the league helped the A’s reach state qualifier status Aug. 8, defeating the Bulldogs 9-6 behind Mike Weber’s strong start and a couple crooked number offensive innings.

Scott Benjamin had a homer and two RBI for Delano, and all but one batter sprayed a base hit. The A’s walked 10 times to help their on-base percentages, and though they scored nine times they still left on 11 runners.

Weber’s five innings and two runs gave the offense ample time to warm up, and key innings of three and four runs got Delano the lead for good after four innings. A small scare by Buffalo cut the lead to 8-6 after the top of the seventh, but an insurance run and a nice save outing by Jake Nelson clinched the Delano win.

For more Region 12C and amateur baseball coverage, follow @JaredNHR and @Kovar_HJSports on Twitter.

PODCAST: Crow River Valley League Playoff Preview

Herald Journal Sports Editors Kip Kovar and Jared Martinson breakdown all things in the Crow River Valley League heading into the postseason.

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