Archive for HJ Sports

PREP ROUNDUP: Weather wreaks havoc on area section tournaments

WINSTED – With section baseball and softball tournaments nearing the finish line, mother nature wasn’t having it. Around the state, section baseball and softball tournaments were postponed for the evening, creating a new schedule for the teams still alive. Below is look at some of the schedule changes, results, and notes from area section tournaments.

SECTION 5AA SOFTBALL
With just four teams left, the plan was to have just two remaining after tonight. That didn’t work as planned, as both games scheduled for tonight were postponed due to weather.

In the winners bracket, Norwood Young America got the win over Maple Lake 5-4 in a weather-shortened game. It was Maple Lake’s first loss of the season.

The Irish had a 3-0 lead after one inning of play, but home runs from Bren Fox and Anna Mackenthun tied the game for the Raiders in the second inning.

With the game then tied at four in the fifth inning, Leah Crown came through for the Raiders with a two-out RBI single to give them a 5-4 lead. The game was called because of weather shortly after, as the Raiders advanced to the Section 5AA title game.

With the loss, Maple Lake drops into the one-loss bracket. They will face the winner of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and Litchfield Wednesday evening.

HLWW and Litchfield were also playing in Rockford Tuesday night. Their game was called due to weather in the fifth inning with the Dragons leading the Lakers 7-3. The Dragons scored six runs in the top of the first inning to grab the early lead, but the Lakers began to chip away with two runs in the bottom of the third inning.

Litchfield and HLWW will pick up their game where they left off Wednesday, May 30 at Rockford at 3 p.m. The winner will then play Maple Lake for a trip to the Section 5AA title game.

SECTION 5AA SOFTBALL SCHEDULE

Wednesday, May 30

(12) HLWW vs. (3) Litchfield, 3 p.m.

* Dragons lead 7-3 in the top of the fifth inning. Winner plays (1) Maple Lake right after.

 

SECTION 4A SOFTBALL

Weather also was a factor for the Section 4A softball tournament. Like Section 5AA, there were just four teams remaining. Mayer Lutheran and West Lutheran were scheduled to play in an elimination game, with the winner playing Randolph after.

The game between the Crusaders and the Warriors was postponed in the bottom of the sixth inning with the score tied at five. The Crusaders will have runners on first and third with two outs and Taylor Gabbert hitting when the game resumes Wednesday.

The winner of Mayer Lutheran and West Lutheran will face Randolph for a trip to the Section 4A championship game against Kimball.

SECTION 4A SOFTBALL SCHEDULE

Wednesday, May 30
(4) Mayer Lutheran vs. (5) West Lutheran

* Game is tied at five in the bottom of the sixth inning. Winner plays (2) Randolph right after.

 

SECTION 4A BASEBALL

In Section 4A for baseball, Mayer Lutheran and top-seeded Heritage Christian had their game shortened to weather. The Crusaders suffered the same disappointment as the Maple Lake softball team did as they trailed 1-0 after five innings, thus counting as a full game, and giving Heritage Christian the win.

Mayer Lutheran falls to the one-loss bracket and will face the winner of West Lutheran and Legacy Christian Thursday afternoon in Mayer.

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity got their full game in against Goodhue despite the weather. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, their season came to an end with 2-0 loss to the Wildcats. The Wildcats did all their damage in the first inning, as a two-run home run was all they needed.

SECTION 4A BASEBALL SCHEDULE

Wednesday, May 30

(3) PACT Charter at (2) Randolph, 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 31

(7) Legacy Christian or (6) West Lutheran at (4) Mayer Lutheran, 4:30 p.m.

 

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter to stay up to date on all your favorite teams.

Twitter:@Kovar_HJSports 

Listen Before You Riot Wolves Fans

If you pay attention to Minnesota sports, you might have heard some unfortunate rumors about your Minnesota Timberwolves. In the world of fake news, the 24/7 news cycle, and “sources” constantly looking for their next successful Tweet, one quote can be completely blown out of proportion. That is exactly what happened to Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst on “Lowe Post”, Zach Lowe’s NBA podcast.

The two respected NBA media members were chatting on the podcast about what the offseason might bring. The topic was: Which key player could the Boston Celtics add to become a perennial championship contender? Zach Lowe mentioned that there seems to be a riff between management and the players in Minnesota and that maybe there was a deal for them to make. Brian threw out the hypothetical that the Celtics could target Karl-Anthony Towns.

Keep in mind that they did not claim to have “sources” and were not trying to make headlines. They were simply two guys who love talking about the NBA and fun potential scenarios.

This harmless conversation stemmed countless headlines claiming that a trade was basically unavoidable and that KAT had played his last game in a Wolves jersey. “News sites” even pointed to an old photo of KAT in a Suns jersey as evidence that it was over.

Zach Lowe joined The Bill Simmons Podcast and wanted to clear the air. Bill started off with his spicy hot take: “Karl-Anthony Towns will get traded by Minnesota.”

Zach, clearly annoyed, implored listeners to actually listen to his words. He said “Don’t believe it…. All I said in that entire segment was things aren’t great internally, which I meant to apply to the entire Timberwolves franchise and I cited [Wolves beat writer] Darren Wolfson’s comments on a recent podcast…”

Now, as a quick side note, it is not comforting in any way that the “entire Timberwolves franchise” is having difficulties internally. Respected sources have confirmed that there are issues to work out among ownership, management, and the players. However, no credible media members have reported that the Wolves have even considered trading KAT (or Butler for that matter).

Lowe did go on to say that he has heard they are open to trading Andrew Wiggins, since they will not be able to afford 3 max players. I 100% endorse this opinion and believe that the Wolves will aggressively look to do. And be careful; that is strictly an opinion and has no factual evidence (other than his lackluster performance all year, his terrible contract, and the cap crisis the Wolves are facing).

Now, the whole point of this column is to encourage you to not believe everything you read. Do your research before you riot. Understand the difference between opinion and fact. I know in this age it is not easy to find the truth. There are way too many non-credible “news sites” that only care about fake headlines, getting clicks, and ad revenue.

But as the great Abraham Lincoln wisely stated, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

As always, feel free to send me an email at jwandersee@heraldjournal.com any time during the week if you have a topic, opinion, observation, or snide remark for me.

 

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PREP SOFTBALL: Defense leads Bulldogs past Mounds Park Academy

LESTER PRAIRIE – For the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity softball team, the bats were simply not there in their Section 4A opening game against Mounds Park Academy. That didn’t bother them one bit as they continued to do what they’ve done all season long, which was play strong defense, and that helped lead them to a 3-1 victory over the sixth-seeded Panthers Tuesday night.

“We needed it,” LP/HT coach Bill Nuebarth said about getting a great performance form his defense. “It was just good defense. (We had) one error. The outfield made plays when they had to, and Jenna (Dolezal) got strike outs when we had to. It’s a good game for us.”

LP/HT senior Rileigh Shackelton applies the tag at second base for a big out during LP/HT's 3-1 victory over Mounds Park Academy Tuesday night.

LP/HT senior Rileigh Shackelton applies the tag at second base for a big out during LP/HT’s 3-1 victory over Mounds Park Academy Tuesday night.

The Bulldogs, the No. 3 seed in the Section 4A tournament, had just four hits in the game, but their aggressive base running helped pick up the lack of the production that their bats had. After both teams traded zeros for the first two innings, the Bulldogs finally were able to break through thanks to a pair of errors by the Panthers.

Myranda Hentges reached on an error to start off the bottom of the third inning. After a strikeout, Hentges stole second to give the Bulldogs a chance to get on the board with a runner in scoring position. A base hit from Rileigh Shackelton brought Hentges to third, and an errant throw to the infield allowed Hentges to score and give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. Shackelton later came around to score on an RBI single from Kayla Weinzierl, and the Bulldogs had a 2-0 lead after three innings.

It didn’t take long for the Panthers to answer. In the top of the fifth, the Panthers got their first run of the game courtesy of back-to-back base hits. That’s all the Panthers would get though as Dolezal settled down in the circle and was on cruise control the rest of the way.

While Nuebarth didn’t think he would have the luxury of having a go-to pitcher to lean on in games like this coming into the season, Jenna Dolezal has been more than anything he could have asked for this season.

“One walk in this game and six or seven strikeouts,” Nuebarth said about his pitcher Jenna Dolezal. “That’s what we need. We just need to play good defense behind her.”

With the Bulldogs still leading 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, senior Emma Blashack provided a big insurance run. After Blashack tripled with some very aggressive baserunning, she came around to score on a comebacker to pitcher which allowed her to show off her baserunning once again.

“Jenna made that big play and Emma had that big hit over the head,” Nuebarth said. “That was huge. Those are seniors. That’s what we kind of expect from them. (They) step it up.”

With the win, the Bulldogs advance to play second-seeded Randolph on the road Thursday afternoon.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

 

ALL THE SMALL THINGS: Royals use small ball to cruise past SW Christian

CHASKA – When you’ve been around the game of softball as long as Watertown-Mayer coach Scot Isakson has, you always seem to have a few tricks up your sleeve. With 15 years of coaching experience under his belt, Isakson and the Royals caught the SW Christian Stars off guard in the first round Section 5AA softball tournament opener.

Watertown-Mayer coach Scott Isakson had the perfect game plan as the Royals cruised to a 9-1 victory over SW Christian Monday evening.

Watertown-Mayer coach Scott Isakson had the perfect game plan as the Royals cruised to a 9-1 victory over SW Christian Monday evening.

“We’ve played small ball on and off throughout the season this year,” Isakson said. “It depends on the team that you play. You don’t necessarily want to show it that early because you want to be able to go back to it later. When we played them before, we didn’t bunt at all. We got our hacks in knowing that today, we could come back and potentially get a few bunts down and move some runners around, and it worked out. The girls have really done a good job of that.”

The small ball strategy put in play by the Royals caught the Stars off guard early and often as the Royals used their speed on the base paths to cruise to a 9-1 victory and keep their season alive Monday afternoon. The Royals took advantage of errors, walks, and perfect bunts to score nine runs despite just having four hits as a team. They scored at least one run in each of the first three innings as they got the leadoff batter on in each inning which came via three different players.

“That just kind of speaks to our team and how hard they work,” Isakson said. “This season, we’ve had five total practices outside. Only four of them were on our home field. We’re finally starting to find a groove. We’ve played 19 games in the last three weeks. We’re starting to play some better ball.”

“We came out and kind of thought that they would have the mentality that they’re going to beat us again,” junior Janessa Berrios said. “We just had to prove them wrong. We were just ready to play. It was a good battle.”

While Berrios and the Royals were able to jump out to an early lead thanks to a run in the first and two more in the second, the Royals only gained more confidence as the game went on as they felt in control.

“It definitely makes us a lot happier and gets our confidence up at the plate and in the field,” Berrios said about getting an early lead.

Junior Nikki McDonald squares up for a bunt during Watertown-Mayer's 9-1 victory over SW Christian.

Junior Nikki McDonald squares up for a bunt during Watertown-Mayer’s 9-1 victory over SW Christian.

While the Royals were enjoying a 3-0 lead after two innings, the Stars weren’t going to go down without a fight. After W-M’s starter Karly Swanson walked a pair of batters to open the inning, Isakson didn’t waste any time going to his reliever Morgan Matson. The move paid off big time for the Royals, as Matson struck out the next three batters in order to get the Royals out of the inning without allowing a run.

“Those two have really done a great job of supporting each other,” Isakson said about his pitchers. “When something goes wrong, those two have been able to flop, and they pick each other up really well. That’s a nice benefit to have both of those two to lean on.”

Swanson and Matson did a masterful job pitching for the Royals in the win allowing just the one run. They also held the heart of the Stars’ lineup in check, which was their problem in a 4-1 loss to Stars earlier this season. The top four hitters for the Stars went 1-for-9 with walk and six strikeouts as Swanson and Matson held them in check throughout.

“That’s just it,” Isakson said. “The last time we played them, that’s where all four of their runs came from. We did help them with two of those runs, but when you keep those top four hitters in check on any team, that’s when you can be successful.”

Janessa Berrios had two hits and scored two runs to lead the Royals to a big win in the fist round of the Section 5AA tournament,

Janessa Berrios had two hits and scored two runs to lead the Royals to a big win in the fist round of the Section 5AA tournament,

With the win, the Royals advance to the double elimination portion of the Section 5AA tournament. With just eight teams remaining, the Royals know it will be a battle throughout to get where they want to.

“We’re pretty excited,” Berrios said. “We don’t want the season to end. We’re not ready for it to end.”

Even with names like Maple Lake and Norwood Young America standing in the way, Isakson knows how unpredictable things can get this time of year when a team gets hot and plays well.

“That’s exactly right,” Isakson said. You pull of an upset and get a little bit of confidence. You just get some things rolling. You never know what’s going to happen. You can play for quiet a while if you want. That’s the goal.”

Watertown-Mayer will face top-seeded Maple Lake Tuesday afternoon on the road at 4:30 p.m. The Irish are a perfect 20-0 this season, and the top-ranked team in Class AA.

SECTION 5AA SOFTBALL FINALS

(9) Watertown-Mayer 9, (8) SW Christian 1

(4) Rockford 17, (13) Holy Family 0

(12) HLWW 8, (5) Spectrum 7

(3) LItchfield 15, (14) Brooklyn Center 0

(2) NYA 23, (15) MPLS Henry 0

(7) G-SL 19, (10) Blake 3

(11) Maranatha 13, (6) Providence Academy 6

SECTION 5AA SOFTBALL MATCHUPS (Tuesday, May 22 – All Games at 4:30 pm)

(9) Watertown-Mayer at (1) Maple Lake

(12) HLWW at (4) Rockford

(11) Maranatha Christian at (3) Litchfield

(7) Glencoe-Silver Lake at (2) NYA

 

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

Why Fire a Good Coach?

This week, we have our first topic submission and I think it is a well posed question.

Nathan M. – Why do teams fire good coaches when a better one is not available?

I have been thinking about this question a lot recently, in light of the now former Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey (The 2017-18 NBCA Coach of the Year mind you) being let go from his job after suffering a 4-0 sweep in the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the hands of LeBron James.

Around the NBA, Casey is considered a good man and a great coach. His record in his time with the Raptors speaks for itself. He started in 2011 and finished with just 23 wins. They jumped to 34 wins in 2012, and made the playoffs the next 5 seasons with win totals of 48, 49, 56, 51, and 59. This season they paced the Eastern Conference as the 1 seed and were legitimate contenders to make the NBA Finals.

Their playoff runs were typical of a team on the rise. The first two years, they were young, inexperienced, and got bounced in the first round. They made the conference finals in 2015-16, and the semifinals the past two seasons. If that doesn’t seem like success, just ask the Timberwolves how far they have gone in the playoffs in the past 15 years.

One of the complaints about Casey was that he couldn’t adjust to beat LeBron each of the last 3 seasons. If you ask me, trying to stop the 2nd (maybe 1st) best player of all time is no small task and is an entirely valid excuse.

Casey had a .573 win percentage in his time with Toronto and the most wins of the Eastern Conference over the past 5 seasons. Does it really pan out in the long run to fire a good coach who can’t get over the hump when very few coaches can? Does it pay to experience dramatic changes without much of a plan as to finding someone who has that magic formula to win a title?

Let’s relate this to the local sports landscape. A similar comparison would be in 2010 when the Vikings fired Brad Childress… just kidding. Brad Childress and his play card, the size of a menu at one of those places where you can order everything from scallops to stir fry to vegan lasagna, filled with terrible plays completely deserved to be fired.

However, with the nature of the professional coaching position, this isn’t that different than if Mike Zimmer got fired. Obviously right now that seems impossible.  But when you compare their development as head coaches, it is more similar than you think. Both have improved their teams drastically, made the playoffs consistently and proven to be dedicated, intelligent, and worthwhile to their franchises.

Look at where that got Dwane Casey. After making the playoffs 5 straight seasons, making the Conference Finals once, winning 59 games and coach of the year, he still found himself filing for unemployment. What more could he do?

Zimmer has had 2 playoff runs flame out so far. What if the Vikings go 7-9 this season? Is he suddenly a terrible coach? What if, like Casey, he always leads the Vikings to the playoffs, but they never make a Super Bowl? Should he be fired because he can’t win the big game?

Seems to me that teams pull the trigger much too quickly on good coaches. Just ask the Spurs, the Patriots, and the Blackhawks for example, how having a stable coaching staff has worked for them.

As always, feel free to send me an email at jwandersee@heraldjournal.com any time during the week if you have a topic, opinion, observation, or snide remark for me. I will work to integrate them into the column each week.