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Cloak and Dagger – The MIAC Boots St. Thomas

“After extensive membership discussions, the University of St. Thomas will be involuntarily removed from membership in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). The MIAC Presidents’ Council cites athletic competitive party in the conference as the primary concern. St. Thomas will begin a multi-year transition immediately and meanwhile is eligible to compete as a full member of the MIAC through the end of spring 2021.

St. Thomas is one of the seven founding members of the MIAC and will leave the conference in good standing with a long and appreciated history of academic and athletic success.”

- The official statement from the MIAC.

This is a hypothetical, but walk with me here.

Imagine being married to someone for 99 years. Everything is great, the relationship makes sense and it works. There’s no place you’d rather be. As far as you know, your spouse feels the same way.

You come home from work one day, maybe whistling a nice tune to yourself thinking that everything is normal, to find a note on the kitchen table. You find this odd and pick up the note. You open it up and it reads:

I’m divorcing you. I don’t owe you an explanation or a discussion even though we’ve been together 99 years. I’m also taking the house you built and expect you gone by morning. Good luck with your future.

This is a dumb hypothetical to express how asinine the MIAC’s decision was this week to expel St. Thomas.

It cannot be denied that St. Thomas has had the most athletic success in the conference in recent years. Nobody would argue against that. They also have the nicest facilities and the highest enrollment. Again, nobody would disagree.

However, this was one of the most immature and embarrassing decisions I’ve seen supposed leaders make… Well, that might be an exaggeration, but forgive me because I’m frustrated.

My biggest complaint is the nature with which the process was done. This decision was made in secret behind closed doors all because a couple of schools were upset they couldn’t compete.

Media members tried to discover the truth and report on this story, including many prominent voices in the Twin Cities. However, the MIAC tried to get this done swiftly and privately and would not let coaches or officials of any schools speak on the matter.

If you are going to go down this ridiculous path, stand up and own it. Be upfront with the students, athletes, alumni and fans about the true reason why this is a problem. You at least owe them that.

Because of the nature and magnitude of this story, national outlets like ESPN, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, MPR, Bleacher Report, Yahoo, New York Post and many others have published details of the event. At a minimum, St. Thomas can at least look like a national hero while the MIAC tucks their tail between their legs and is ridiculed by the entire country.

The schools who apparently voted to keep St. Thomas in were: St. Thomas, St. John’s, St. Ben’s, and Bethel.

That means shame on Augsburg, Carleton, Concordia Moorhead, Gustavus, Hamline and St. Olaf and the rest of the MIAC schools.

It really is a great lesson to teach your students: If you can’t beat them, don’t work harder to try to beat them next time, simply expel them from the conference so you can pretend you are actually better.

That’s leadership at it’s finest.

Good luck with whatever your future holds St. Thomas. As a Bethel alum, I truly hope it works out the best for you. Please beat those schools who voted you out by 100 points in the fall.

SECTION 4A BASEBALL: Bonk, Froman lead Crusaders past Panthers

MAYER – Errors have haunted the Mayer Lutheran baseball team all season long. It’s a big reason they won only one game throughout the regular season, but in the postseason, the Crusaders flipped the script.

Led by good pitching from Cody Bonk and solid defense behind him, the Crusaders turned in their best performance of the season as they kept their season alive with an 8-2 victory over PACT Charter in the first round of the Section 4A baseball tournament Tuesday evening.

“It was huge for us,” junior Zach Froman said. “We’ve struggled all year. It’s been rough. We’ve made a lot of errors. I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t, but we kind of picked it up together. We had a nice talk before the game to just focus on the mental side. That’s been a key for us this year, and we were able to show that out on the field when we went out there.”

The Crusaders committed just one error in the win as they made the simple plays behind Bonk to get the win.

It wasn’t easy for Bonk early on against the Panthers. In the top of the first, he found himself in trouble. PACT Charter had the bases loaded with just one out, and an RBI single from Cooper Kennedy gave the Panthers an early 1-0 lead.

Bonk would settle down following the single. A strikeout and fly out ended the inning, and Mayer Lutheran got out of an early jam allowing just the one run.

“I think that helped a lot,” Bonk said about getting out of the inning with just one run allowed. “We got down in the dumps right away. In the past this season, we’ve struggled getting down early, but coming back really helped our confidence.”

In the bottom of the second, Mayer Lutheran was able to tie the game, thanks to Eli Johnson. After Matt Roepke led off the inning with a single, Johnson brought him in to score on a double to right-center, tying the game at one.

In the bottom of the third, coach Dave Lane and the Crusaders rolled the dice and gambled a bit. Froman led off the inning with a double, and the Crusaders had the go-ahead run in scoring position to open the inning.

Both Sam Dennis and Brendan Feltmann were retired, leaving Froman at second with two outs. That’s when Lane and the Crusaders rolled the dice, as Froman stole third and was called safe on a close play.

The gamble paid off as one pitch later, Froman came in to score on a wild pitch, giving the Crusaders a 2-1 lead.

“We’ve left a lot of guys on base this year,” Froman said. “We’ll get runners in scoring position with no outs or one out and can’t capitalize on it. It’s big for us when we’re able to do that. It was nice to see that, coming into the beginning of playoffs.”

With a run in both the second and third innings, Mayer Lutheran started to build some confidence at the plate, and even used a little two-out magic in the bottom of the fourth. After the first two batters were retired to start the inning, Mayer Lutheran took advantage of three errors by the Panthers to open a big lead. Johnson and Greyson McKinney both scored on an error as Ty Hoese was held up at third after a hit to center, which put Mayer Lutheran up 4-1. The Crusaders didn’t stop there.

A two-out RBI single from Froman made it 5-1, and thanks to an error and passed ball, the Crusaders added on two more runs to take a commanding 7-1 lead after four innings.

“That was really important,” Bonk said about the big inning. “Once we start scoring runs, we get a lot more positive and we just play better as a team.”

It was a big win for the Crusaders as they advanced to the double elimination portion of the Section 4A tournament. It wasn’t easy as they had to work out of multiple jams, but they found a way to get it done as PACT Charter left 11 men on base, including leaving the bases loaded three times.

“We can’t afford to make mistakes against teams,” Froman said. “We’re a young team. We don’t have much experience out there. It’s important to get out of those jams without giving up runs. It’s huge for us.”

KOVAR: It’s time to recognize three-sport athletes

It’s something that’s becoming more and more rare. With so many other things to do, and the new idea of sports specialization, three-sport athletes are becoming more and more extinct. That’s a shame.

High school sports are some of the best times a student will have in their high school careers. Whether they see major time at the varsity level, or they are the athlete who might have to play junior varsity a few more years, high school sports are something to enjoy for all students.

It’s been eight years since I’ve graduated high school, but believe me when I say this: I wish I would have played three sports during my high school career. I wish I would have, but I didn’t.

Why not? Well, I was committed to the idea of playing college basketball. So, instead of playing multiple sports, I decided to focus on basketball year-round. Whether it was fall, winter, spring or summer, I was in a gym almost every weekend.

I loved the game of basketball and enjoyed spending almost all of my free time in a gym. My freshman and sophomore year, I still played baseball in the spring. During my junior and senior year, I stopped playing baseball for my high school because a new opportunity for basketball became available to me and I took it. I decided to play AAU basketball in the spring for the Minnesota Magic instead of continuing to play baseball for my high school.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved my time playing AAU. I made a lot of new friends and teammates from around the area playing AAU. It made the high school season a lot more fun playing against the guys I played with all spring and summer, too.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to play AAU was to get some exposure to college coaches. In the end, it absolutely worked and I had the luxury of having a couple of colleges to go to and continue my basketball career, including getting scholarships to a few places.

I worked my butt off for years trying to get exposure and offers and it worked. When I got my first offer, I was so excited. It was a dream come true and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Flash forward to the end of my senior season at Mayer Lutheran, and the excitement level wasn’t there as much. I was just coming off playing my final season in a Crusaders’ jersey, and it was an exciting and tough one at that. The joke around Mayer Lutheran that year was that I set a school record for emergency room visits for a season.

Following my senior season, I took some time to decide if playing college basketball was really what I wanted to do after high school. The more I thought about it, the more the idea of just being a student and a kid sounded better.

At first, I decided not to accept any scholarship offers, and I enrolled at Winona State University. A few days passed and I kept thinking if I made the right choice. Now, almost 10 years later, I can honestly look back and say I made the right choice.

Come the end of my senior season, I was burnt out. I had played so many games, endured so many practices over the pervious two years that I just wanted a break. I didn’t want to stop playing entirely, I just wanted time to relax. To play and compete at the college level, there was no time for that, so I decided that not playing college basketball was the best choice for me. It wasn’t an easy choice.

Looking back, I wonder how my life would have been different if I never played AAU or didn’t stop playing baseball and other sports. Would I have been burnt out? Would I be even better off because of the benefit playing multiple sports offers?

There’s a lot of studies out there nowadays that show the benefits of playing multiple sports. Some college coaches look for recruits only on the basis that they play multiple sports. That’s for a good reason.

Playing multiple sports offers so much to a kid. It’s multiple chances for a kid to represent their school and community. It’s multiple chances for a kid to play and practice with their friends. Heck, you might even make some new friends when trying a new sport.

I missed that point when I was in high school. It was about the time where kids were choosing one sport and focusing on that sport alone. If you want to do that, that’s fine. It’s not wrong, but it’s not for everyone. It wasn’t for me. I learned that firsthand.

I applaud those three-sport athletes in the area (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, Watertown-Mayer, and Mayer Lutheran). There are a lot of them. In fact, there’s 128 of them to be exact, between the four schools 9th-12th. That’s amazing to see.

It makes sense that HLWW and Watertown-Mayer have the most three-sport athletes as they have a higher enrollment. In the 2018-2019 school year, HLWW had 40 three-sport athletes. W-M was right behind them with 37, while LP/HT had 37. Mayer Lutheran had 20 three-sport athletes this school year.

I’d like to point out one of them and share what it’s done for them. Look at Mayer Lutheran senior Baden Noennig. He’s a three-sport athlete (football, basketball, track and field). He’s also attending the University of Upper Iowa next year to continue his basketball career on a scholarship.

Noennig could have focused solely on basketball, but he didn’t. He played football in the fall, and ran track and field in the spring. Despite playing other sports, Noennig will leave as one of the best basketball players Mayer Lutheran has ever seen. He’s the school all-time leading scorer, and a three-sport athlete.

There are many other athletes in the area who play three sports and will continue one of them at the college level. Not only do those athletes benefit from playing three sports, so do their schools and communities.

In today’s day and age, three-sport athletes are becoming more and more rare. If you’re a senior who plays three sports and is graduating this spring, congratulations on great careers and representing your school. If you’re a junior or underclassmen and play three sports, continue to do so. I promise you that you won’t regret it. You only get so much time to play sports in your high school career.

If you’re an underclassmen who plays three sports, continue to do so. Don’t stop to focus on one sport. You can focus a majority of your time on a specific sport, but don’t forget about all the other ones you can make memories in. Playing time might be harder to come by as you grow older and compete on varsity. Embrace it. Don’t complain. Work hard. Do your best. You’ll be glad you did when you leave high school and enter the real world.

Thanks to help from area athletic directors, I was able to tally every three-sport athlete from the four schools Herald Journal covers. I wanted to make sure these athletes got the recognition they deserve. To the seniors moving on, I’ve enjoyed covering you in whatever sport it may have been. To those coming back, I look forward to telling your stories even more, and maybe even in a new way as you reach out to multiple sports as you go on.

High school sports are some of the best things life has to offer. It’s why I love what I do. My four years of high school sports when I was a kid wasn’t enough. That’s why I’m here – to tell your stories and capture those memories that will live on forever. It’s been eight years since I’ve been in high school, and I can still vividly remember memories from my basketball career. If I only saw the bigger picture, imagine how many more memories there would have been if I played multiple sports.

Below is a list of the 128 three-sport athletes in the Herald Journal coverage area.

FRESHMEN

Brooke Baumann (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Lily Bobrowske (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Drew Burau (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Issac Busse (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Anastasia Cardinal (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Bradon Caturia (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Andrew Fasching (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Ethan Fiecke (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Preston Helgeson (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Lydia Montgomery (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Ezekiel Riemer (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Andrew Aguilar (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Noelle Blashack (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Rebecca Fasching (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Donovan Harrison (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Jenna Heimerl (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Bryce Lamp (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Kara Lee (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Layne Teubert (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Zach Zebell (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Bella Barden (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Megan Barnhart (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Logan Bullock (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Tanner Burmeister (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Ashton Congdon (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Michael Dalheimer (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Ethan Domjahn (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Jackson Drahos (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Gabby Dulas (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Anja Gilbert (Watertown-Mayer High School)

George Janikula (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Maris Huen (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Will Meretn (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Carly Killian (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Cole Lange (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Wyatt Skoog (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Trent Steuernagel (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Caden Stucchi (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Jason Washburn (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Fiona Williams (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Emma Lade (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Conner Olsen (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Caleb Olsen (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Ty Hoese (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Anika Jilek (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Abram Jopp (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Elijah Jopp (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Sam Dennis (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Olivia Shimanski (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Abby Maetzold (Mayer Lutheran High School)

SOPHOMORES

Aidan Decker (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Hunter Decker (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Noah Bush (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Parker Helmbrecht (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Spencer Lade (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Danny Mosford (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Abby Niesen (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Bennett Paulson (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Erica Pawelk (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Ashley Schumacher (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Danielle Wood (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Paige Heimerl (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Riley Heimerl (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Zach Jackson (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Dylan Knoll (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Anna Litzau (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Oswaldo Lopez (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Adrian Montano (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Brian Vega (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Jason Zimprich (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Maggie Czinano (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Andrew Quast (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Sawyer Ritter (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Tyler Volkart (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Abby Chmielewski (Mayer Lutheran High School)

JUNIORS

Blake Peterson (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Remington Albright (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Cody Dickhausen (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Emma Fury (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Gracie Mallak (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Quinn Mathison (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Elizabeth Montgomery (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Joseph Schanus (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Ryan Tuchtenhagen (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Josie Dolezal (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Alex Heimerl (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Myranda Hentges (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Evan Lee (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Kayla Lorentz (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

William Meyer (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Alex Nelson (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Emily Rademacher (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Shelbea Schuette (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Sam Ragner (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Shelby Mueller (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Jackson Meyer (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Libby Heilman (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Brita Haataja (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Ansen Dulas (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Devyn Burns (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Patrick Anderson (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Lexi Schermann (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Eli Johnson (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Anna Baumann (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Riley Corrigan (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Austin Crown (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Paige Stahlke (Mayer Lutheran High School)

SENIORS

Brock Bangasser (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Matheus Hammarstrom (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Nate Heuer (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Daniel Hoffman (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Logan Iverson (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Brandon Karels (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Courtney Long (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Elise Luchsinger (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Nick McAlpine (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted)

Parker Bayerl (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Matthew Fasching (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Dylan Ruzicka (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Trevor Schuette (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Will Elskamp (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Kylie Hoese (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Nick Juncewski (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Hannes Skogar (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Pablo Diaz (Watertown-Mayer High School)

Symone Jopp (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Kaleb Winter (Mayer Lutheran High School)

Baden Noennig (Mayer Lutheran High School)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports