Archive for HJ Sports

PREP SOFTBALL: Langenfeld leads Bulldogs past United Christian to snap five-game skid

LESTER PRAIRIE – Lester Prairie’s Lexie Langenfeld is just one of three seniors on the roster this season for the Bulldogs. Along with leadership, she’s also the workhorse for her team in the circle and she turned in one of her best performances of the season when her team needed it most.

Amid a five-game losing streak, Langenfeld brought her best as the Bulldogs got back into the win column with an 11-0 win over United Christian Academy in four innings Monday.

“It’s good to see her pitch well,” Lester Prairie coach Andrew Weber said. “She was throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count.”

Langenfeld got the start as usual for the Bulldogs. She wasted no time in getting off to a strong start, having faith in the defense behind her.

“Just do the best I can,” Langenfeld said about her mindsets coming into the game. “All I can do is as good as I can do. I just have to rely on my defense a little bit.”

Relying on the defense was much easier for her after her team spotted her five runs in the first inning.

“It lets me rely on my defense,” Langenfeld said about getting off to a quick start. “I just have to throw it down the middle and let them hit.”

With a 5-0 lead heading out for her second inning of work, that’s when she brought her best. After an error and base hit gave the Thunder a pair of baserunners to open the inning, Langenfeld struck out the next three she faced to get out of the jam.

She was on cruise control after that, retiring 12 of the final 14 batters she faced to help get her team back into the win column.

“It was very nice,” Langenfeld said about putting an end to the losing streak. “We didn’t have the enthusiasm in those games that we had today. It was a good win.”

“It was good to win because we were on a five-game losing streak,” Weber added. “It was nice to get the bats going again and have some fun while we’re playing.”

At just over the half-point mark of the season, the Bulldogs sit just one game back of being .500. With a record of 5-6, Weber likes where his team is headed.

“We’re progressing,” Weber said. “We had a little lull. You get those midseason lulls a little bit. We’re batting through that and keep progressing as we get to sections.”

“We had a very young team coming in,” Langenfeld added. “We didn’t really have that high of expectations. Now, I think we’re progressing really well. I think we’re doing better than expected.”

With eight games left in the regular season, the Bulldogs will be looking to keep their bats going and play with confidence heading into the postseason.

“Just keep believing that we’re good hitters,” Weber said about what he wants to see from his team going forward. “We need to keep going up there and being aggressive. Just keep continuing to be confident.”

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the May 14 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.  Subscribers have full access to this article and more by clicking here. Subscriptions start as low as $1.50 for a two-day subscription, the same price as a newspaper on a newsstand.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

PREP SOFTBALL: Lakers keep the energy up despite losing streak, lineup changes

HOPKINS — The wins haven’t been piling up for the Lakers of HLWW softball. But the adversity they’re going through right now is preparing them for the future while teaching them lessons in real time as well.

With some frequent changes to the lineup in recent days and some whirlwind games, HLWW has fought to adjust as hard as any team could — focusing on what they know they can do and letting the rest play out. They came up short to Blake on the road Friday 9-2, threatening with some late-inning chances but ultimately not capitalizing.

“As we make changes in our lineup, we just have to control what we can control. We have to be flexible on defense especially,” head coach Carol Meyerson said.

Callie Elg got the start for the Lakers on the rubber and despite some errors and walks that led to three first-inning runs, she settled into a solid rhythm. HLWW was down 6-0 before they plated a run on a deep fly to center field in the fourth.

A Brooke Olund RBI ground rule double got another one across in the fifth, but two runners in scoring position were stranded in the sixth to stifle the Laker rally as Blake extended the lead to 9-2 and finished the game.

“The one thing we can control is our hitting right now — when to put down a bunt, our pitch selection, our focus, and we’re going to make sure nothing changes on that side even while our defense might,” Meyerson said.

Postgame, Meyerson’s message was simple — emphasize what is available. That meant showing up each day and working hard regardless of circumstance; something will give eventually. While the Lakers wait patiently on that opportunity, their dugout is the opposite of doom and gloom. The team spirit culprits are exactly the players any coach wants them to be: seniors.

“Our seniors are really leading in energy and positivity and attitude,” Meyerson said. “They’re the ones demanding that energy. Each senior has had their big game so far and that’s what’s keeping us going.”

HLWW has three more games next week, all chances to respond to the previous setbacks. A 2-10 start to the season has plenty of reason to get a team down; the culture of the Laker dugout won’t allow that.

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the May 14 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.  Subscribers have full access to this article and more by clicking here. Subscriptions start as low as $1.50 for a two-day subscription, the same price as a newspaper on a newsstand.

Follow Jared Martinson on Twitter: @JaredNHR

PREP BASEBALL: Fast start lifts Mayer Lutheran past rival Lester Prairie

MAYER – Getting off to a good start in any game is important. When it’s a section game against a rival, it’s even more important.

For the Mayer Lutheran baseball team, they couldn’t have gotten off to a better start as they took advantage of some early struggles in a 6-2 win over rival Lester Prairie Tuesday night.

“They kind of did what we’ve done a couple of times this year,” Mayer Lutheran coach Dave Lane said. “We give up a bunch of runs early and that’s tough to come back from. I thought we would hit the ball better. It’s one thing we’ve been doing a bit better. We just didn’t seem to hit with much authority after that first inning.”

The Crusaders came firing out of the gate. A leadoff single from Connor Olson had them in business early. After the single, back-to-back walks loaded the bases and Mayer Lutheran took advantage. Another walk to Ty Hoese gave the Crusaders a 1-0 lead, but they didn’t stop there. With just one more hit in the inning, Mayer Lutheran scored four more runs in the bottom of the first, two of which came on a single by Levi Hahn.

“That’s a great start,” Ty Hoese said. “It helps to get up five and have a little cushion. With that, you’re not so nervous playing defense.”

Lester Prairie got out of the inning but not before they found themselves in a big hole early.

“We gave up five in the first inning,” Lester Prairie coach Ben Machemehl said. “It was a lot of walks and that’s what kills us. That’s the importance of throwing strikes right there. After that, we bared down and kept it close. We’re definitely happy with the performance after the first inning. Clean some mistakes up and we’re right there with this team.”

Despite the ugly first inning, the Bulldogs were right in the game as senior Riley Heimerl gave them a boost. After taking over on the mound in the second, Heimerl battled on the mound. After a leadoff single scored on a sacrifice fly, Heimerl then retired 11 of the next 12 batters he faced to keep Lester Prairie in the game.

“That’s a must,” Machemehl said about Heimerl stepping up. “Especially in a situation like that. We struggle the first inning throwing strikes and Riley comes in and does what he needs to do. He throws strikes and is a leader. That’s good to see that leadership come out of him.”

The Bulldogs close the gap to 6-2 as Jack Behning scored on a wild pitch in the top of the fourth, but that’s all they would muster the rest of the way as they struggled to get the clutch hit they needed.

“We’ve done that a couple of games now,” Machemehl said. “It’s a different game if we get a hit. That makes a big difference. We just got to put the bat on the ball. We got to work on that in practice and get it in play.”

After Behning scored on the wild pitch, Lester Praire had the bases loaded with nobody out. They failed to score a run as Mayer Lutheran’s Caden Robbins picked up two huge strikeouts and a fly ball to get out of the inning with just one run allowed.

“He’s a great pitcher,” Hoese said about Robbins. “He throws hard and has good stuff. When he finds the zone, he’s a great pitcher. He’s just got to find the zone consistently and he’ll be great.”

Although Robbins didn’t have his best stuff, he made the big pitches when needed. Lester Prairie once again had the bases loaded in the top of the fifth but failed to score as Robbins worked out of trouble once again.

“He really did,” Lane said about Robbins throwing some big pitches. “He doesn’t really get hit hard much, but if he gets himself in trouble, that’s what happens. He was able to work his way out of it today which was good to see. He’s got good stuff.”

The win gives the Crusaders their second win in three games. After a tough start to the season against ranked teams, Lane is happy with the way his team is progressing as of late.

“We’re looking at the end of the year,” Lane said. “We want to be at our best by then. I see the ingredients there. It’s just not always coming to the top.  We see teams in our conference that will be better than any team we would see in a state tournament. Sibley East is ranked third. Glencoe–Silver Lake is ranked fourth and Belle Plaine is ranked fifth. That’s how we started our season. We would have liked to do a little better, but five of our six losses are against ranked teams.”

“We play a pretty tough schedule,” Hoese added. “That hurts, but growing pains at the beginning of the year make us work through them and we’re getting a lot better. Guys are coming along and we’ll keep improving and getting better.”

For Lester Prairie, they fall to 4-2 on the season with the loss. With a matchup with Mayer Lutheran coming again later this month, Machemehl is hoping his guys come ready for a little revenge.

“They’ve got to be pumped,” Machemehl said. “That’ll be a big one. The nonconference games we have are big. We’re right up there at the top of our section. That’s pretty cool, but we got to get a little payback next time. That would be nice.”

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the May 7 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.  Subscribers have full access to this article and more by clicking here. Subscriptions start as low as $1.50 for a two-day subscription, the same price as a newspaper on a newsstand.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

PREP SOFTBALL: Noerenberg, Mayer Lutheran find their stride late in win over St. Clair

NEW GERMANY – The first inning for the Mayer Lutheran softball team was one they’d like to have back. After falling behind 3-0, the Crusaders were forced to play catchup early on. They did just that as they never panicked in a 14-4 win over St. Clair in five innings Monday night.

“We have some experienced players at the top of our lineup, but we have a lot of youth and a lot of inexperience,” Crusaders coach Kris Gustin said. “You work on things in practice but you can’t create those games situations. I think we’ve learned a lot in the six or seven games we’ve played this year. The girls have improved quite a bit from game one. There’s a lot of good things from our team.”

Thanks to four-straight two-out hits, St. Clair had a 3-0 lead over Mayer Lutheran heading to the bottom of the first. The Crusaders got one of those runs back in the bottom half thanks to the speed of Rylee Noerenberg. After drawing a walk, Noerneberg moved up to third on a sacrifice bunt and later came around to score on a wild pitch to give the Crusaders their first run of the game.

“She’s lightning-fast and she’s an intelligent baserunner,” Gustin said. “You don’t have to coach her. She knows what to do. If she gets to third and that ball gets even a little bit away from the catcher, she’s probably going to score because of her instinct and how quick she is. It’s fun to watch her run the bases.”

After Mayer Lutheran was forced to settle for one run in the first, St. Clair threatened to get that run back immediately.  A leadoff triple had the Cyclones in business, but Chloe Kirt and the Crusaders had other plans. Kirt struck out two and got a lineout to get out of the jam without allowing the run to score.

“It was huge,” Noerenberg said about getting out of the jam without allowing a run. “Chloe did a great job on the mound tonight. We did good backing her up.”

“That’s huge,” Gustin added. “You get out of that three-run inning where we shot ourselves in the foot with a couple of miscues, and then they lead off with a triple. You leave that girl stranded there and that’s a huge momentum killer. That was a huge positive for our team.”

After St. Clair was unable to get the run, Mayer Lutheran made them pay an inning later. After leaving the bases loaded in the second, the Crusaders broke through in the third thanks to some much better at-bats.

“That’s really worked well for us these past couple of games,” Noerenberg said about being patient at the plate. “We’ve had some slower pitchers, so I’m glad we were able to work on timing and I think we did really well tonight. It was super important. It has been the last couple of games for us. I’m glad that we’re improving and moving on. I’m really proud of our team for that.”

Back-to-back singles from Maddi Saulsbury and Kirt had the Crusaders in business in the bottom of the third. After the bases were loaded with a walk, Saulsbury came around to score on a wild pitch and bring Mayer Lutheran within one.

“It’s pretty important,” Noerenberg said about having a short memory. “I’m proud of our team. I think we’re doing really good. If we keep improving, I think we’re going to be a threat this year.”

An infield single by Rachel Kelzer followed by a throwing error allowed two more runs to score, giving the Crusaders a 4-3 lead after three innings of play.

Playing with the lead now, Kirt and the Crusaders found a rhythm even when the Cyclones tied the game in the top of the fourth. Kirt was nearly untouchable the rest of the way, holding off St. Clair down the stretch to get the win.

“She’s thrown well for us this year,” Gustin said. “She moves the ball around. She’s got three or four pitches where if one’s not working she can go to a different one. She moves the ball well and she’s tough to hit.”

After St. Clair tied the game at four in the top of the fourth, Mayer Lutheran took advantage of walks and sloppy defense in their at-bat. The Crusaders batted around and scored nine runs in the inning, helping them pick up the win in five innings.

“I think the improvement is really encouraging,” Gustin said. “Our goal is to play our best softball at the end of May. That’s what our goal is. We feel we can be competitive. We’re right there in that mix. We’re continuing to improve, continuing to learn, and continuing to grow, that’s a good thing for us.”

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the April 30 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.  Subscribers have full access to this article and more by clicking here. Subscriptions start as low as $1.50 for a two-day subscription, the same price as a newspaper on a newsstand.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

PREP BASEBALL: Lakers continue to set culture with well-rounded victory over NYA

WINSTED — The HLWW baseball team didn’t get much time on the diamond last spring to get acclimated under first-year head coach Tyler Maher; only three practices, specifically. So the goal early on this time around — even more so than winning — has been to build a solid foundation across the program.

“These guys are learning, they’re trusting our coaching staff and believing in what we’re telling them. I always say there’s more than one right way to do something, but we’re going to do it this way because it can work for us,” Maher said. “They’ve all bought in and you can start to see the results of that now.”

The Lakers went back over .500 with a solid 9-3 victory over Norwood Young America at home April 23, receiving contributions from a variety of players beyond the known quantities coming into the year. A five-run second inning busted the game open for HLWW, led by the middle of the batting order.

Trent Malone and Aidan Decker got the offense going with consecutive singles, then Mason Macziewski cashed in with an RBI double. Smart baserunning on a couple Raider errors added to the lead, as well as a Bennett Paulson RBI single and Malone coming back around for an RBI walk with the bases juiced.

The trio of Bennett Anderson, Bennett Paulson and Noah Bush at the top of the order has been strong all year, but the handful of Lakers following them came up huge Friday. The philosophy Maher teaches at the plate caters toward their strengths.

“We talk a lot about staying in it, good effort and keeping a good attitude when we’re at the plate,” he said. “What our middle of the lineup did was use the approach of ‘up the middle and backside’, and they know if a pitch comes inside they’ll be able to pull it. I thought they did a really good job of being patient tonight.”

Paulson was excellent on the mound, tossing five and one-third innings and allowing three earned runs, all well after HLWW had created a big cushion. The senior has given up just four earned runs in 12-plus innings this season, revealing some pitching depth Maher didn’t necessarily know they would have.

“Even in practice the first time throwing off the mound this year, I thought Bennett could be a number one on a lot of teams that I’ve seen,” Maher said. “When you can throw him in there and you know he’s going to battle and be around the zone throwing strikes, he’s going to give us a chance, and that’s what we ask our pitchers for.”

Bennett Anderson came in to finish off the last four outs, including the last out of the sixth with the bases loaded and a possible sway of momentum coming for Norwood Young America.

A lot of names were mentioned from this game, for good reason. Batters four through seven — Malone, Decker, Macziewski and Aiden Debner — combined to go 7-for-11 at the plate with four RBI. As Maher noted, the concept of hanging tough and giving everyone around them a chance was prevalent in the lineup and the pitching rotation. Now at 3-2 on the season, the winning is a byproduct of that mindset and new culture formation.

The Lakers roll into Annandale Tuesday for their next game.

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the April 30 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.  Subscribers have full access to this article and more by clicking here. Subscriptions start as low as $1.50 for a two-day subscription, the same price as a newspaper on a newsstand.

Follow Jared Martinson on Twitter: @JaredNHR

PREP SOFTBALL: Decker’s walk-off lifts HLWW past Lester Prairie

HOWARD LAKE – Maddie Decker wasn’t expecting to have the game-winning hit when she woke up today. She wasn’t even expecting to play.

Decker, a member of the junior varsity team for the first game of the season for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted softball team, found herself in the biggest spot of her career in the first varsity game of her career. With the JV game getting done early, Decke was called upon for the Lakers late in their matchup with Lester Prairie.

After getting a hit in her first plate appearance, Decker came up to the plate once again with the game on the line in the bottom of the seventh. Tied at four, HLWW loaded the bases with nobody out. By the time Decker came up, there were two outs and it looked as if the Lakers were going to let a golden scoring chance slip away. That was until Decker had other plans.

“That’s so awesome for her,” HLWW coach Carol Meyerson said. “She’s been working super hard. We told her she might be able to step in and we might need her. That’s a huge moment for her. The smile on her face says everything.”

A base hit to right field scored the winning run for the Lakers in a 5-4 walk-off win over the Bulldogs in their season opener Monday night.

“I was playing with junior varsity, and I didn’t know if I was going to even play today,” Decker said. “Carol said that there’s a chance that I might get pulled up. I never thought that I was going to get in the game or get the game-winning hit.”

Decker was thrown into the fire right away in the win. After the JV game ended, she stepped right into the action as she was called upon to pinch-hit as the second batter of the inning.

“I just came in from the outfield in our JV game,” Decker said. “I grabbed all my stuff and was running over and got on deck. I didn’t know where the game was or what the score was. I didn’t know what was happening. I just got up and hit.”

Decker’s day finished with two hits in two plate appearances, the second being the game-winner. Her heroics wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for Breanna Decker in the circle. After walking her first four batters of the game, she calmed down in a hurry to keep her team in the game.

“She just needed to get back into that routine that she knows,” Meyerson said. “She’s a great pitcher. She has a lot of experience. She had a year off, but it was nice to see her be able to get back into the game.”

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the April16 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.  Subscribers have full access to this article and more by clicking here. Subscriptions start as low as $1.50 for a two-day subscription, the same price as a newspaper on a newsstand.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports