Archive for HJ Sports

Minnesota Twins are in for a fun Summer

With only 157 games to go, the Minnesota Twins are atop of the AL Central Division with a 4-1 record. At that rate, Minnesota is on pace to go 129-33, which would only be 13 more wins than the best record in MLB history… Okay I guess we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves just yet.

Considering the small sample size, the Twins have actually shown some signs of life that would indicate this could be a much better season than last year.

Already the Twins have shown that they can win games in multiple fashions. They started the season with 2-0 win over Cleveland that showcased quality pitching from ace Jose Berrios. Berrios pitched 7.2 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts against last year’s AL Central champs.

After losing 2-1 in another pitcher’s duel, the Twins bats have since woken up to win three straight games. Minnesota dominated Cleveland 9-3, beat Kansas City 5-4 in extra innings and had an impressive come-from-behind win again over the Royals 7-6.

Last year, most of the free agents the Twins signed simply did not pan out. Obviously it is still incredibly early to decide whether this class of free agents will perform better, but so far the signs have been encouraging.

Designated hitter Nelson Cruz has been exactly what Minnesota needs for the middle of the lineup, batting .333 with a home run and six RBI’s. Cruz even had the game winning hit in the 10th inning of Tuesday night’s affair.

Since 2014 when he led the league with 40 home runs, he has tallied totals of 44, 43, 39 and 37. His lowest RBI total in that stretch was 93 while also notching a league leading 119 just two years ago. It seems like the veteran power hitting DH might be exactly the threat the Twins need to solidify the 4th spot in the order.

Apart from experiencing a rib injury, even Byron Buxton has been good so far in 2019. Batting .308 and playing elite defense, it is hard to complain about what he has been doing. Taking a rest day for his ribs, Buxton played a huge part as a pinch-runner in the 7-6 comeback win over the Royals on Wednesday. He stole his 30th consecutive base that would eventually be the game winning run for the Twins.

Courtesy of Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman on Twitter), no player in MLB history has a stolen base success rate above 90% with at least 50 attempts… except Byron Buxton. I just really hope Buxton can stay healthy.

Lastly, the Twins might have accidentally stumbled into a replacement for Miguel Sano at third base. Willians Astudillo is 6-9 on the season with five runs scored, three doubles and three RBI’s. Obviously the Twins need a healthy Sano in the lineup if they want to be the best that they can be, but “La Tortuga” as Astudillo is affectionately known has been really fun to watch.

Plus, if you take a look at the highest average in MLB history with a minimum of 100 plate appearances (data courtesy Aaron Gleeman), the proof is really in the data. Ty Cobb: .366 avg. Willians Astudillo: .382 avg. Clearly we have an all-timer on our hands folks.

All kidding aside, the Twins look like they might be in for a competitive, entertaining and simply fun summer, and that is all anyone can ask for.

Minnesota Twins Over/Unders for 2019

The 59th season of Minnesota Twins baseball has officially begun and I could not be more excited. After watching the Twins dominate the Indians yesterday afternoon 8-1 in the home opener of the 2019 season, there couldn’t be more optimism surrounding the squad.

As you probably can tell, I wrote this on Wednesday night. That explains why you were  wondering why I said they won 8-1 when they actually lost 6-0… Again, I guessed this second score on Wednesday, so I’m just throwing darts at a dart board hoping for a bullseye. (Digital edit: Impressive pitching effort by Jose Berrios in a 2-0 win yesterday! 1st Place 1st Place!)

Either way, I have to say I am excited about Twins baseball. I know that being excited for baseball isn’t really allowed since I am a millennial. Last I checked anyway, it was against the law in the United States to like baseball and be a millennial.

I have to admit that when I say I am excited for Twins baseball, I do mean it in sort of a millennial-esk way. Instead of doing a roster breakdown and trying to guess how 162 games are going to play out, let’s look at the season in terms of over/unders.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the gambling term of over/under, it is a pretty simply concept. Sports books will use data to predict totals for anything that can happen in sports. For example, they might say that Andrew Wiggins’ point total over/under for his next game is 22.5 points. This means that if you think he will score 23 or more points you bet the over. If you think he will score 22 or fewer points, you’d bet the under (which I highly recommend).

Here are some over/unders for the 2019 Minnesota Twins season.

The over/under for the number of games I will watch from start to finish on TV is .5 games. I will put my entire life savings on the under for this one. There is a 0% chance that I sit down and watch an entire game on TV willingly. Sorry!

The over/under for the number of games I will have on in the background while I’m doing other things around the house is 20.5 games. This was a tougher one. I’m still taking the under, but this gambling line is at least in the ballpark (baseball pun).

The over/under for the number of games I will attend is 3.5 games. Another close line for this bet. I’ll lean the under as my buddy Luke usually brings me to about 2 games a season. With my wife being gone for a month of the summer, there will be no date nights at Target Field. If I’m going to hit the over, Luke needs to step up his game.

The over/under for the number of times I hear about Buxton and Sano underachieving this season is 58.5 times. Sorry for being so negative with this one, but I’d bet money on the over.

The over/under for games the Minnesota Twins will win is 84.5. This is a stay away for me. Minnesota stumbled there way to 78 wins last season without Sano or Buxton providing much of anything. Assuming the core of the team is able to improve even just marginally, getting to 85 wins isn’t too big of a stretch. I simply don’t trust this team enough to bet on either side of this line. I’m saving my money to double down on the TV bet I made earlier.

In all seriousness, it is always fun to have Twins baseball back for another season. Despite there being roughly 6 foot tall snow drifts just a few weeks ago, Target Field was open for business yesterday and hopefully that is a good omen for the season. I guess we will find out after a thrilling 162 game season.

Plenty of Reasons to Love March

There are many reasons to love March. March is when the snow melts away, the sun warms up and we can finally put our winter jackets away (hopefully I didn’t jinx it). Spring athletics can finally leave the gym to practice outside and we see real grass for the first time in ages. Spring break is a needed relief to recharge the batteries after a long winter.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, March is NCAA Tournament time.

I really enjoyed my college experience for many different reasons. One of the best parts of attending college, though, was having my spring break fall in line with the first weekend of March Madness.

For 3 years, I’d lug myself to the couch at about 11:15 am on Thursday to start watching the first game of the tournament. I would always tell myself that I would just watch part of this game or that game and then I could finish my homework I had been putting off.

Every year, the only reason I would leave the couch that day would be to eat or go to the bathroom… As a basketball junkie, this was completely normal behavior as the NCAA Tournament is one of the most important sports events in the world.

Millions of people fill out brackets every year. Some of these people are huge college basketball fans while the majority of them haven’t seen a game all year. That doesn’t stop everyone from filling out a bracket and entering it in the office pool.

There is a simplistic beauty to filling out a bracket. If each game was calculated at 50/50 odds between who would win, the odds of predicting a perfect bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion. I guess to be more precise, it is a 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 chance. That doesn’t stop us all from hoping that our bracket is going to be the first perfect one.

I suppose this is why that the sports nerd who has watched every college basketball game this season, the animal lover who makes decisions based on which mascot they like best, and the coin-flip bracket all have virtually an equal chance of winning. As frustrating as that can be, that is truly what makes it fun for everyone.

It does help that the games are always entertaining to watch. Although Division 1 basketball has proven they have some major issues to fix regarding recruitment, bribes and paying players, the games still have that anything can happen feel. There is nothing better than watching a 4th seed Power House school and a 13th seed tiny Mid-Major duke it out and potentially pull off the upset.

My wife and I ended up sitting down and watching the play-in game between 16th seeds Fairleigh Dickinson University and Prairie View A&M on Tuesday and were completely entertained. It was a back and forth battle that was actually really fun to watch despite knowing that whoever won would likely be crushed by 1-seed Gonzaga next round.

CNBC comes out with an article every year on how businesses will suffer billions in lost revenue nationwide due to losses in productivity during March Madness. I’m not sure how they determine those numbers, but I know plenty of people who have the games on during work or even take a couple of vacation days to sit at home and watch. One of my friends even planned a minor surgery this week just so he could recover on the couch during March Madness.

Personally, my friends and I traveled down to Des Moines yesterday just to watch the Gophers upset Louisville in the first round and had a blast. We were also in Milwaukee when Minnesota was a 5 seed that lost to the 12th seed Middle Tennessee State two years ago, so thankfully we didn’t sabotage them with our presence this time.

Either way, I encourage you to take some time and watch some games. Whether it is traveling a few hours to watch your favorite team or having one screen at work be “work stuff” and the other be the NCAA Tournament, just enjoy the madness. There’s simply nothing like it.

 

2018-2019 Herald Journal All-Area Girls Basketball First Team

The 2017-2018 girls’ basketball season in the area was exciting once again. Whether it was great games, or players reaching a career milestone, the season was filled with many moments to remember. Although none of the four local teams reached the state tournament this season, there was still plenty of talent on display in the local gyms.

Below is a look at the Herald Journal All-Area Girls Basketball First Team.

CJ Decker (HLWW)

When you go up against the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Lakers, you know you’re always going to get the best from junior point guard CJ Decker. One of the top players in the area in girls’ basketball, Decker delivers in so many different ways for the Lakers.

“CJ is a coach on the floor and one of the toughest competitors around,” HLWW coach Rick Baumann said.  “She helps get teammates in the right places, and identifies defenses really well. She makes her teammates around her better, by getting them the ball at the right time. She is an unselfish player, who puts the team and others before herself.”

On the season, Decker averaged 13.7 points per game. She also recorded her 1,000th career point against Paynesville Jan. 25. To go along with her ability to score, she also averaged 3.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. Decker also led the team in steals with 83, which was 45 more than the next closest player.

While Decker’s stats are impressive, it’s her demeanor on the court that sets her apart. Not afraid to put the team first, she’s a player that Baumann hopes younger players are watching closely.

“She is a great player with an even better attitude, and a great role model for all the players in our program,” Baumann said. “She leads by example and is always willing to help the younger players with their game. When teams would run two or even three players at her to get the ball out of her hands, she never became frustrated, and did other things to help our team be successful.”

 

Alexa Schumann (HLWW)

While the Lakers enjoyed having Decker run things on the perimeter, they also had a nice option to go to inside with  junior Alexa Schumann.  The forward was the top scorer for the Lakers all season long, and gave HLWW a presence inside.

“Alexa was a force in the paint for us all year,” Baumann said. “She took games over for us, and when teams doubled her, she would not force things and would pass the ball to her teammates and crash the boards hard.”

Schumann led the way for HLWW, averaging 15.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. She also averaged one assist per game, and led the team in blocks with 30.

“She was a force in the middle on both ends of the floor for us scoring, blocking shots, and rebounding for us on defense,” Baumann said. “We ran a lot of our offense through her this year, and it allowed other players to get open shots.”

 

Lexi Schermann (Mayer Lutheran)

Over the first month and change of the season, Mayer Lutheran’s Lexi Schermann needed patience. Not eligible to play until Jan. 1 due to transfer rules, Schermann waited for her opportunity.

The Crusaders needed a true scorer in their lineup, and come Jan. 1, Schermann delivered that in a big way.

“Lexi led us in scoring this season,” Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin said. “Her ability to score and get to the free throw line was a huge boost for the team following her entrance into the varsity lineup in January.”

Despite missing the first two months of the season, Schermann was the leading scorer for the Crusaders this past season. She averaged 13.6 points per game, and led the team in scoring in nearly every game she played. With Schermann’s emergence as a true scorer, Mayer Lutheran certainly became a stronger team with her on the floor.

“Lexi’s focus and effort in practice definitely made the team better,” Gustin said. “Her work ethic pushed others to be better, as well.  We were a much better team in the second half of the season, due in large part to Lexi’s presence.”

 

Maggie Czinano (Watertown-Mayer)

Stepping into a bigger role this season with her sister, Monika, gone, Maggie Czinano became the top scoring threat for the Royals this season. The sophomore guard did it all for W-M, leading the way in almost every statistical category.

“Maggie led us in scoring, rebounding, and shooting percentage for the season,” W-M coach John Rosholt said. “She came within an eyelash of averaging a double-double for the season, averaging 16.5 points per game and 9.5 boards per game.   Maggie recorded nine double-doubles in rebounding and scoring for the season.”

After a big taste of the varsity level as a freshman last season, big things were expected for Czinano in her sophomore year. Although she carried a big responsibility for the team, Czinano proved she could handle it time and time again.

“This season was an adjustment for Maggie as she went from the second or third scoring threat on the team to our leading scorer,” Rosholt said. “That may not seem like much of an adjustment, but it is a big jump as teams begin to focus on stopping your top scorer.  Again, Maggie had a steep learning curve at the start of the season with her new role, but she met the challenges that were placed in front of her and gained in confidence and consistency as the season progressed.”

While Czinano carried the load offensively, she was also one of the top defenders on the team, as well, making her one of the top overall players in the area.

“Maggie was no slouch on the defensive end of the court as she has the athleticism to be a shut-down defender,” Rosholt said. “With her high basketball IQ, ball skills, athleticism, and fortitude, Maggie is on her way to becoming a complete basketball player.”

 

Emma Maas (Watertown-Mayer)

Hard work has payed off for W-M’s Emma Maas. The senior guard worked countless hours on her shot, and it paid off as she’s one of the top shooters from 3-point range in the area. Maas made a team-high 53 3-pointers this season.

“Emma’s work ethic was incredible again this year,” Rosholt said. “Her after-practice shooting workouts paid dividends as she consistently demonstrated why she was one of our top scorers from beyond the arc this season. In addition to her ball skills, Emma has continued to excel defensively.  Game after game, Emma was repeatedly assigned to defend the opposing team’s best offensive guard.  With her quickness, determination, and discipline, Emma was able to raise the anxiety level of some of the most confident and prolific offensive players.”

On the year, Maas had 57 steals and averaged 3.4 rebounds per game. She had a knack for making things difficult for opposing teams, as well as consistent leadership for W-M.

“Emma’s high basketball IQ, coupled with her athleticism and resolute attitude, produced a tenacious defender and productive offensive player,” Rosholt said. “Emma has grown in her skills, leadership and confidence over the years and this season, her senior year, she displayed why she is such a valued member of our team and community.”

Entinger’s record season earns him HJ Wrestler of The Year

WATERTOWN – After getting a taste of the state tournament in his freshman season, Watertown-Mayer senior Carter Entinger was committed to get back. That goal became a reality for Entinger, but it didn’t stop there.

“Carter has been a stud for us for years,” Watertown-Mayer coach Kurt Becker said. “After qualifying for state as a 9th grader, and not making it his 10th and 11th grade years,  he made it back this year and placed 3rd.”

A third-place finish at the Class AA individual state tournament was the only proper way to go out for Entinger. It was picture perfect ending for the senior who puts in the time even when everyone else isn’t looking.

“He worked so hard and put in so much time this off season to make that happen,” Becker said. “It was so rewarding to see his hard work pay off for him.  He is such a great kid and great part of our team.  He will be missed next year.”

Along with a third-place finish at the state tournament, Entinger also broke the program record for takedowns in a season. He finished with 154 takedowns, breaking the old record of 151 set by Dave Neuman in the 1994-1995 season.

“He’s just such a great kid to have on the team and all the young kids look up to him,” W-M coach Bill McDonald said.   “He’s a good student. He worked exceptionally hard. He put a lot of time in the off-season to improve his skill-set, and he’s the kind of example you want for your program as a coach. I could not be more proud of someone.  He will be missed.”

Noennig’s versatility, skill-set net him HJ Boys Basketball Player of The Year

MAYER — As the career for Mayer Lutheran’s Baden Noennig comes to an end, his impact never will. Not only will Noennig leave as the school’s all-time leading scorer, he’ll leave as one of the top players in program history as he helped lead the Crusaders to uncharted territory.

“Baden is the leader of this team on and off floor,” Mayer Lutheran coach Pat Buchanan said. “He has led our team to a 46-13 record over the past two seasons with a third-place finish in the state tournament last season. While playing in the state tournament, he earned a place on the all-tournament team.”

After recording his 1,000th career point last season, Noennig became the school’s all-time leading scorer this season. With 1,632 career points, Noennig’s name is atop the list of 1,000-point scorers at Mayer Lutheran.

While scoring points is one part of his game, he’s not afraid to get his teammates involved. To go along with 18.7 points per game, Noennig averaged 2.4 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game.

“With him being the only starter from last year’s team returning, he has taken on the challenge to make others better for the team to be successful,” Buchanan said.

Along with becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer, Noennig was an All-Conference selection for the MN River Conference. If that’s not enough, he was also a semifinalist for the McDonald Award, which recognizes the best player in the state of Minnesota. He’s also been selected to the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association All-Star game, and will continue his basketball career at the University of Upper Iowa next year.

What makes Noennig so good is his versatility. At 6-foot-6, Noennig has the ability to score all over.

“His athletic versatility is Baden’s greatest strength, as he can score anywhere on the court,” Buchanan said. “He is also a good defender and productive rebounder. With a 3.9 GPA, he defines leading, on and off the court.”