Archive for HJ Sports

SECTION 2A BOYS BASKETBALL: Dominant second half leads Bulldogs past BOLD

ARLINGTON – There are two seniors on the roster for the Lester Prairie boys basketball team this season. They both chose the right time to have one of their best games of the season as Gavin Eckstein and Tanner Scheevel helped lead the Bulldogs to an impressive 66-55 win over the BOLD Warriors Thursday night thanks to a dominant second-half performance.

“Credit to Tanner playing through his injury and Gavin was super aggressive getting to the rim and getting rebounds,” Lester Prairie coach Andrew Dahl said. “They weren’t ready to be done with their season. They really brought a little extra for us tonight on the court and in the locker room. It was fun to have them leading us and see the other guys follow their lead.”

The Bulldogs struggled at times in the first half but as much as BOLD was in control, Lester Prairie trailed by just five at the half. The Warriors scored the first five of the second half to push their lead to 10 but the Bulldogs answered immediately with an 8-0 run themselves to get back within two thanks to 3-pointers from Tanner Scheevel and Trever Schauer.

“We got some good guys that if we need to make a play, they can go and get one for us,” Dahl said. “I feel like we kind of have the mindset now that we can handle some adversity where earlier in the year we would kind of panic a bit. Now I think we have some mental toughness to withstand a run and make a run of our own.”

Lester Prairie turned up the pressure with their defense in the second half throughout. They held the Warriors to just 20 points in the second half including a six-minute stretch without a field goal.

“We tried some zone defense and we’re not really a zone team. We just tried mixing things up to take away their ball screens and dump-ins. Our man-to-man in the second half really got us some energy with some tips and steals and that got us rolling. We hit some shots and that got us really going.”

A three-point play by Alex Hodny tied the game at 41 for the Bulldogs. Schauer gave the Bulldogs the lead with a three-point play of his own and Lester Prairie led 54-50 with just under seven minutes to go,

“A lot of big performances from a lot of guys,” Dahl said. “I thought everybody really made some good plays for us. It was a good team effort by a lot of different guys tonight which is fun to see.”

The Bulldogs would seal the game holding the Warriors to just five points in the final seven minutes of the game to keep their season alive.

With the win, Lester Prairie advances to the Section 2A North Championship game where they will take on No. 4 Cedar Mountain. The Cougars knocked off top-seeded Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s in the other semifinal game. The Bulldogs defeated Cedar Mountain 77-60 earlier this season but Dahl knows how much a team can change throughout the season.

“They shoot the ball well and run the floor,” he said. “We did see them early in the year but it seems like they’ve improved their game since we saw them. It should be a fun matchup.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

SECTION 5AA BOYS BASKETBALL: Royals take care of upset-minded HLWW

WATERTOWN – Just a couple of years ago Watertown-Mayer boys basketball coach Kent Janikula was showing his team highlights from the NCAA Tournament of No. 12 seeds upsetting No. 5 seeds. This year was a different story as the Royals came in as the higher seed and took care of business with a 73-49 win over the Lakers Wednesday night.

“It’s a little different now when it comes to motivation,” Janikula said with a laugh. “That’s our section though with them being a No. 12 seed. It’s both good and bad to have familiarity with an opponent in the playoffs but we knew what to expect. We took a punch from them early but I thought we executed the rest of the way and that changed everything in terms of momentum.”

HLWW had the feeling of an upset on their minds coming in and looked the part early on. Thanks to some hot shooting from 3-point range to start, the Lakers hung right with the Royals through most of the first half.

“We played extremely hard all game,” HLWW coach James Carr said. “We came out and executed the way we wanted to. The end of the first half kind of got away from us though but I’m proud of how the guys competed.”

HLWW was within five with just over five minutes left in the first half. That’s when W-M made their run as they closed the half on a 13-2 run and then opened the second half with the first six points of the half to break things open.

“Those are big momentum swingers,” Janikula said. “To win the last bit of the first half and come out the way we did in the second half was big.”

W-M’s game plan was clear from the start. With HLWW missing Alex Zimmermann who was out with injury, the Royals leaned on their big men inside each time down the floor as they outscored HLWW 58-18 in the paint.

“That’s kind of our gameplan in general but with them missing a guy inside that was obviously part of the game plan,” Janikula said. “We have three guys who can score inside so we wanted to make sure we found the matchup we like and pound it inside and I thought we did a good job of that.”

Despite missing one of their key big man and scorers, Carr was happy with how his team fought despite being short-handed.

“We’ve dealt with injuries all season and have had guys step up into big roles,” he said. “It was fun to see guys step into positions where they kind of played out of position a bit. They got after it and worked really hard.”

With the loss, HLWW’s season comes to an end with an overall record of xx-xx. The Lakers took a big step forward this season as a program thanks to two key seniors in Cole Gilbert and Chase Deiter.

“Cole was kind of the heart and soul of our team,” Carr said. “He rebounded for us and almost averaged a double-double. He was able to hit tough shots and could get as hot as any player we’ve seen. He hit a lot of big shots. Chase was our absolute motor when it came to energy. We know when we put Chase in there he is going to give us everything he has. Chase and Cole take charges every single night and our younger guys saw that and it carried over to them. That’s a huge energy thing for us and it started with our seniors. That’s a selfless play. When your seniors and captains are doing that, it’s a good thing for your program.”

The future is bright for HLWW going forward with several sophomores and juniors returning next season. After getting a taste of what varsity basketball is all about, Carr is excited about the future of the program going forward.

“It was good for them to experience a playoff game with this much intensity and experience the grind of a full varsity season,” he said “A lot of these kids who were playing didn’t play a lot on junior varsity or have many varsity minutes. All these minutes they got this year will pay dividends next year.”

With the win, W-M advances to the Section 5AA quarterfinals where they will face either Minneapolis Edison or Southwest Christian. While W-M’s section is loaded from top to bottom, Janikula is hoping the experience his team brings pays off.

“Pretty much every kid who’s playing for us has playoff experience,” he said. “I think that does matter. Last year we played the state champions twice and the runner-up in the playoffs. We’ve got a lot of experience. These kids played in the state football playoffs and the state baseball tournament. I think that helps. I thought the kids were excited and not nervous in the locker room beforehand. I think that’s a credit to the success they’ve had across the board.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

SURVIVE AND ADVANCE: Schauer, Bulldogs hold off an upset bid from BLHS in Section 2A opener

LESTER PRAIRIE – When the final horn finally went off, Lester Prairie boys basketball coach Andrew Dahl could finally take a sigh of relief.

All game long Dahl and the Bulldogs had fans on the edge of their seats as they never could quite pull away for good from Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart in their Section 2A North Sub-Section quarterfinal matchup. Despite being in control for most of the game, it came down to the wire and it was junior Trever Schauer coming through in big spots down the stretch in a thrilling 57-55 win for Lester Prairie Tuesday night.

“That’s the thing about March I guess,” Lester Prairie coach Andrew Dahl said. “You just have to find a way to win. We had some really good stretches and some tough ones too where we couldn’t get stops. I’m proud of the guys for executing down the stretch and getting a bucket when we needed one. I’m just happy to advance at this point.”

With BLHS trailing by three with 22 seconds coming out of a timeout, a desperation shot from the corner found the bottom of the net to tie the game at 55 with just 6.3 seconds left to play. Coming out of a timeout of their own, Lester Prairie got Schauer in space who drew a foul with 3.6 seconds left. Schauer would sink both free throws to put the Bulldogs up 57-55 but he wasn’t done there. He came up with a huge block at the buzzer on the Mustangs’ final shot as Lester Prairie held on for a thrilling win at the horn.

“He’s big time,” Dahl said about Schauer. “He scores inside or outside. He’ll play a little point guard for us too at times. I’m really proud of him for finding some ways to get some buckets when we needed him. He does a lot for us and he did it tonight.”

The Bulldogs were in control of the game throughout but never could pull away. BLHS led 3-0 out of the gate but never led the rest of the game as Lester Prairie kept them at bay for most of the game until the final minutes.

“We knew they weren’t going to go away so we just had to keep as much of a lead as we could,” Dahl said. “They have some good players and those guards are tough. They can shoot the ball and they’re quick and aggressive to the rim. I think it was good for us to have a close game though to prepare us for games going forward.”

Lester Prairie’s execution out of timeouts and halftime were crucial in the win. The Bulldogs came through with easy buckets out of a set play multiple times in the win, a big key in a close game in the postseason.

“For the postseason, we’ve worked a little more on that in practice,” Dahl said. “It’s nice having a couple of sets that we can go to for some easy buckets. In a tight game like that, those are huge to get some easy buckets. I’m proud of the guys for locking in and doing their roles when they needed to make the right play.”

The Bulldogs came into the matchup shorthanded as they were missing senior Tanner Scheevel who was out with an ankle injury. That gave players like Caiden Herrmann, LaDamien Gatlin-Coellner, and Kaden Otto a chance to step up and deliver and they did just that in the win.

“A lot of the other guys stepped up too,” Dahl said. “Missing Tanner, it was nice to have a few guys step up and take those minutes and make plays for us.”

Despite coming into the postseason on a three-game losing streak, Lester Prairie was feeling good about themselves coming in.

“We lost three in a row but I thought the last two we played pretty well,” Dahl said. “We were scoring better so we had some positive things coming in even though we didn’t get a win. It was nice to get out there again though. It was a long week waiting for our first playoff game but I’m glad we came out and got it done.”

With the win, Lester Prairie is scheduled to take on No. 2 BOLD in the Section 2A North semifinals Thursday. Section games around the state have been moved around due to forecasted weather for Thursday. Stay connected with Herald Journal to see if a schedule change is made to the Section 2A Tournament.

“We knew BOLD is a good team,” Dahl said. “They got some size and some athletes. We played at their place last year and had a good competitive game with them. We kind of expect the same thing later this week.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

STATE OF MIND: W-M/MW’s Kelley cliches second-straight Class A all-around title

ST. PAUL – There was a time in Watertown-Mayer/Mound Westonka’s Reagan Kelley’s life when gymnastics was a question mark. After years of competing in club gymnastics took a toll on her body and mind, there was a sense of doubt hovering over her gymnastics career.

“There was a time where she was going to walk away from gymnastics,” W-M/MW coach Steve Hangartner said. “She didn’t want to do it anymore. Now she just loves gymnastics again. That’s a big reward to us when you see that. She still wants to do it. We knew she had a lot of talent but she was going to walk away. To see where she is now is awesome.”

Kelly’s love for the sport was on full display as she capped off her high school career winning her second-straight Class A state title in all-around Saturday night, posting a score of 38.500.

“Coming in today, I felt like there was a lot more competition than there was last year,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of girls’ all-around (scores) go up and up this year. I was a little bit nervous, but I have a lot of confidence in myself. I know what I needed to do to pull it off and I did and it feels really good.”

Coming off a stellar performance in the team competing the night before, Kelley picked up right where she left off. A score of 9.85 on vault for her opening rotation set the tone for what was to come the rest of the night.

“It gave me such a confidence boost to start off strong with a stick,” Kelley said. “Today I actually stuck it. It gave me a big confidence boost for the rest of the meet. It was a great way to start off.”

There was just one focus for Kelley throughout the night – herself. With multiple gymnasts on her heels, Kelley took care of business and it paid off with her second-straight state title.

“Today, I came in just thinking about myself,” she said. “I was just trying not to look at other people. I just needed to pull it together on my own and I think I did a good job at that.”

“I noticed today how positive she was,” Hangartner added. “She was focused. I came up to her and told her that she missed this and this and she just told me that it’s alright. I just had to make sure I stayed positive to keep on pumping her up. She was in the zone all night. She was ready to go and we just left her alone.”

Kelley carried a ton of pressure on herself this season, labeled as one of the top gymnasts in the state. Looking to help lead her team back to the state meet again, she did just that as she helped an almost entirely new roster keep their impressive winning streak intact this season.

“We noticed that she took on a lot of pressure this year,” Hangartner said. “She took on a lot more this year. With how good she is, even if she doesn’t hit, her score is still going to count. If she misses, that’s five-tenths off our team score and she knows that. She really had support from the whole team all year. She was crying just because she didn’t want the season to end.”

Kelley’s presence for the Royals will be missed beyond her talent. She had a way of connecting with her teammates all season long, a bond that helped herself and the team make it another memorable season capped off in the best way possible.

“She was just a joy to have around,” Hangartner said. “She was hanging out with eighth graders like they were best friends. For those girls to get to hang out and practice with the best gymnast in the state, that’s awesome. That’s memories they’re going to have for the rest of their lives. You get to know these girls in a personal way and it’s really rewarding.”

KOVAR: What does the future of the Crow River Valley League look like?

There’s a saying that the only thing that’s constant is change. That sums up the Crow River Valley League pretty well the last couple of years and amateur baseball in general.

The CRVL has had a few big changes over the past couple of years and there looks to be even more coming on the horizon. The biggest change recently has been Young America moving to Class B last season. The Cardinals will once again be classified as a Class B team in 2023. Young America officially petitioned to move back to Class C at the November 11 meeting but no motion was brought forward.

The Cardinals were also at the February 11 meeting talking with the state board about options for the 2023 season. Young America requested to forgo section games and the Class B playoffs due to player retention and financials. The state board was not in favor of that move but told the Cardinals they would be allowed to not participate in the 2023 postseason if that’s the choice they wanted to make.

Young America is not the only CRVL team that might be presented with a change in the coming years. Waconia, Carver, and Watertown are all close to the criteria mark and have the potential to be Class B teams in the near future. Waconia and Carver are very close to the line while Watertown has a little bit of flexibility with their roster and the majority of their success came in the past two seasons.

The MBA set a total of 45 criteria points to determine if a team should be classified in Class C or Class B.

The Waconia Lakers are quickly approaching that mark with 42 points. Of their 42 points, 14 are success points and 15 are player points.

The Carver Black Sox are also close to the mark with 40 criteria points. The Black Sox have 10 success points while having 24 player points.

The Watertown Red Devils are the only other team that is near the criteria mark. The Red Devils have just eight player points but have acquired 20 success points, much of which have come in the past two seasons because of their deep tournament runs.

Currently, only one Class C team has been bumped to Class B for the 2023 season. The St. Patrick Irish finished the 2022 season with 50 criteria points. Of those 50 points, 26 were success points.

The points system in amateur baseball is a hot topic no matter who you talk to. All in all, I do think it’s a good system for classifying teams when it comes to player points and dealing with the sizes of towns and/or school districts. The part where I struggle to agree with is the success part of things.

In my opinion, Young America, Waconia, Carver, and Watertown are not Class B teams. While each of them had its fair share of success over the past five years and change, none of them has won a state title.

Success points are an interesting discussion. A team is awarded 12 points if they win a state title, 10 points if they make the finals, eight points if they make the semifinals, six points if they make the final eight, four points if they make the final 16, and two points just by making the state tournament. That means unless there are significant roster changes, both Waconia and Carver are on the verge of being a Class B team if they find any success in the state tournament in 2023. I don’t think that’s right.

When I look back at the 2022 season in the CRVL, it’s safe to say that Young America was definitely missed. Not only do they bring a competitive and talented team to the league, but they also have one of the biggest and most passionate fan bases as well. Their fans were dearly missed this year at the Region 7C Tournament where it was evident.

Young America made a couple of nice state tournament runs in the past few years before moving to Class B. As good and as exciting as those runs were, they never even made a state championship appearance.

I understand that the MBA state board is trying to even the playing field and keep Class C as close to what they want it to be. I just don’t understand how a team who hasn’t even won a state title can be moved up a class. Being successful at the state tournament doesn’t turn a Class C team into a Class B team. The goal of every team at the beginning of the season is to win the championship. It’s not just to make the tournament. It’s not just to make the second weekend. For most teams, not coming with a trophy is a disappointment.

I want to see the best teams playing in the biggest games come the state tournament. I don’t mind if we see a team make the semifinals three years in a row or win a couple of state titles in a row. I don’t think teams should be punished for being good. Teams have stretches where they have a bunch of players in their prime and that’s a good thing. It’s fun to see them be successful and watch them try to accomplish their goal.

Class C has not had a repeat champion since the MBA moved to a three-class system in 1986. It’s not like one or two teams have been dominating the competition throughout. In the past 10 tournaments, only two teams have won multiple state titles – Plato and Sobieski. That means we’ve had eight different state champion teams in the past 10 tournaments. That doesn’t seem like a problem to me.

As much as I love the CRVL and how great of a league it is, I worry about what the future might look like. The league already lost one of its best teams in Young America to Class B. With three more teams on the edge of suffering the same fate, it’s a scary time for the CRVL. If the league were to lose Waconia, Carver, and Watertown as Class C teams, Region 7C would be in trouble. The addition of Westonka and the return of Norwood is huge now this year, but if the league as a whole were to lose four perennial powerhouses in the span of a couple of years, it’s tough to say the CRVL would be able to hold onto its reputation as one of the best leagues in the state.

Currently, the CRVL gets four state tournament bids for the Class C state tournament based on great attendance over the years. You take away those four teams and attendance will drop significantly and might even result in having a state tournament bid taken away.

There’s no easy solution to it all. Rules are rules and I do believe the MBA is doing what they think is best for amateur baseball as a whole. I just worry about what might become of the CRVL in years to come. I’ve been covering the league for almost a decade now and have been following it even longer. I love this league and the players and fans that come with it. It’s going to be an interesting couple of years coming up for the CRVL and I’m not sure what to expect. All I can say is that I hope the league remains strong and remains together. It’s one of the best leagues in the state from top to bottom and has a passionate fan base for all teams that can’t be matched.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

AMATEUR BASEBALL: 2023 Amateur State Baseball Tournament poised to be an exciting one

When the state tournament for amateur baseball comes around this summer, it’s going to be a special one. The Minnesota Baseball Association will be celebrating its 100th state tournament this year and four of the top ballparks in the entire state are already eager and excited to bring fans to enjoy games.

This year’s tournament will have games played at Delano Municipal Baseball Stadium, Saints Field in Dassel, and Optimist Park in Litchfield. Lions Field in Waconia will also host some of the Class B/A games over the first weekend as well.

Delano and Dassel-Cokato are no strangers to hosting the state tournament. Delano hosted the 2019 state tournament along with Maple Lake and D-C as the third site. Litchfield and D-C combined to host the 2016 state tournament.

All three organizations have already proven they know what it takes to pull off running a state tournament. They’ll have their biggest test yet though as they are ready for the challenge of hosting the 100th tournament in MBA history.

“With it being the 100th anniversary, it’s a big deal for everyone,” D-C’s Jordan Flick said. “We’ve hosted a few other times and I think we’re pretty well prepared for doing this one. We’re really excited about it. There’s a pretty big buzz going around. We’re super excited to host and we’re elated at the opportunity.”

The experience of hosting a big tournament is there for Delano and Dassel-Cokato, but for Litchfield, they are looking to make a name for themselves when it comes to hosting the big show.

“It means the world to us as a group,” Litchfield’s John Anderson said. “Being a location that hasn’t hosted a ton of tournaments in the past, it’s nice to be a part of it. 2016 really gave us a solid boost being the third site and showed us what it really takes to elevate ourselves to be in the conversion to host this one. There are so many awesome fields and parks across the state. To be able to partner with juggernauts like Dassel and Delano, it’s awesome. They have so much experience. The excitement is really high.”

Litchfield as an organization has put a ton of time and effort into their park. The Blues were part of the 2016 state tournament along with D-C and Hutchinson and also hosted the Region 12C Tournament this past summer. Fans can expect a new look to Optimist Park when they come to the state tournament as they’ve been hard at work improving the park over the past few seasons.

“The amount of upgrades has been pretty crazy,” Anderson said. “What we’ve been able to do the past five or six years is incredible. The big project was our covered grandstand. The first thing fans will notice is that pretty new grandstand. It’s a sight to see compared to what we used to have.”

Other new updates at Optimist Park include new netting around the field, a new sound system, changing the backstop from fence to stone, extended dugouts, extra room outside of the field, and improved bullpens. Optimist Park will also feature new seats under the grandstand that will be installed in June.

“The amount of work all three sites have put in is really impressive,” Anderson said. “We’ve really utilized the experience and knowledge from everybody. We’re excited for the teams that will be there and the fans as well as our community. We just want to make our experience better at the park. We recognize there are a lot of great parks and we always say why can’t that be us? That’s our motivation. A lot of these communities have really great fan bases that can enjoy it. That’s what we want and that’s what kind of pushes us.”

Lithcifeld will get a chance to show off Optimist Park to the state ahead of the state tournament as Fox 9 will be on-site for their annual Town Ball Tour Wednesday, June 28.

“We’ll really be able to showcase what we’ve done in the past two or three years,” Anderson said about Fox 9 coming to town. “That’s going to be that lead-up for us. Getting the local community involved and their support is important to us. These kinds of tournaments don’t run themselves and we need as many volunteers and support as possible. It’s perfect timing for us and it’s going to mix in well with the build-up we have going.”

The focus over the years for Litchfield has been on hosting this tournament, something they haven’t taken for granted or lightly.

“We’ve been listening to what people have had to say,” Anderson said. “Luckily we’ve been put in a place where we can respond and do many of those things. We wanted to put that all together to make it a better experience for the fans and players. We are just loaded up with projects and it’s all in preparation for this tournament. I told our board that every decision we make is with the state tournament in mind. Every decision we’ve made has been leading to this state tournament.”

While Litchfield is looking to emerge as one of the premier sites in amateur baseball, Delano and Dassel-Cokato have been at the top of the best ballparks for many years for most people.

“We take a lot of pride in our parks,” Flick said. “There’s been lists out there ranking all the parks. All I can say is we’re fortunate we have people who are really dedicated to upkeep on the park and making sure the playing conditions are tight. We have a very loyal fan base and volunteers that help with big events. We can’t thank them enough for the work that they do. It sounds cliche, but it really does take a village to put on a tournament like this. Our volunteers are great.”

For Saints Field in Dassel, many of their big projects and improvements came ahead of them hosting the state tournament in 2016. One of the top parks in the state, D-C hasn’t rested on its laurels as they continue to find ways to improve the player and fan experience.

“We had a lot of major upgrades to the park since we hosted in 2016,” Flick said. “We’re working on some more seating now. On the field itself, we’ve replaced some of the chain link fences in foul territory with really cool wooden boards that kind of give it a Field of Dreams-type feel. We also made a full turf warning track and it’s a little bit more reliable and less upkeep there that boards the outside of the field.”

Delano has also continued to work on improvements at their field as well. Last year a new deck was added outside of the left field and right field fences giving fans an entirely new and unique way to take in a game.

“We’re trying to leave no stone unturned,” Ryan Hayes said about preparing for the state tournament. “We’re always looking to up the ante. Some of the stuff is a little bit easier but we’re always trying to add more events and attractions between games. You’re always looking for volunteers and now we’re headed back to some of the same companies for advertising just a couple of years later. I would say preparing will be a lot of the same we’ve done but with a little extra on the marketing aspect of it.”

A big part of the focus for Delano and the other hosts for this tournament is getting new fans into the parks.

“We’re really trying to get those people who don’t know much about the game out,” Hayes said. “That’s kind of the key. We know who’s going to come out already and it’s all about how we can get other demographics out to the park and show them that this is a fun atmosphere that you need to be a part of.”

This upcoming tournament will be a special one for Hayes. Although he’s helped out in ways with some of the previous tournaments, being able to host the 100th anniversary means a lot to him because of how much townball has been a part of his life.

“For somebody who’s grown up with it, it means a lot to me,” he said. “Growing up, most people want to be a major league baseball player. I wanted to play town team baseball. I grew up in Maple Plain and my grandparents would take me to games every Sunday after church. It was always town ball. It was always so cool as a kid. In 1997 I was chasing foul balls at that tournament and now I’ve helped out with the last two we’ve hosted. This is super special to me. It’s really cool being in my 30s and seeing how far it has come.”

One aspect that Delano, D-C, and Litchfield all take pride in is having the North Star League be the center of this year’s state tournament. All three have been working tirelessly over the past few years and are excited to share what they have in store including the late addition of Lions Field in Waconia.

“It’s special for our teams and it’s special for our league,” Flick said. “We love our partners. They have great sites and were also really happy Waconia is there to help us out.

“We just jumped all in with them,” Hayes added. “Everyone was on board. They’ve been very easy to work with and we know what they’re capable of doing. Waconia kind of speaks for itself. That was a pretty easy choice to have them come on board as well.”

While all three sites have been working nonstop to pull off the tournament, the Minnesota Baseball Association as a whole has been too. The MBA has continued to find ways to make the tournament even better which is something that hasn’t been unnoticed by the hosts.

“That group is so open-minded about things,” Hayes said. “You can call them up anytime you want and they’re just very approachable. It’s been very helpful to be in contact with them when they have an open-door policy. They want to go down all those alleys too and at least see what the possibilities are. That’s always great to see.”

“It makes it really feel big time,” Flick added. “We love working with the MBA and the state board. They’re super flexible about working with us and helping us if we need anything. You can tell how dedicated they are to growing this as much as possible.”

The 2023 amateur baseball state tournament gets underway Friday, Aug. 18 at all four sites. For more information about the tournament or to volunteer, check out or contact any of the organizations.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports