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Willmar notebook: Smith starts 4th pro season at Akron

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Willmar graduate Jordan Smith (class of ’09) opens his fourth season in the Cleveland Indians’ chain at Akron, Ohio. Smith, who will turn 24 in July, is one of four outfielders listed on the RubberDucks’ roster.

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The former St. Cloud State University Husky has moved up the ladder in lockstep with other well-regarded Tribe farmhands such as catcher Tony Wolters, shortstop Francisco Lindor, second baseman Joe Wendle and outfielder Tyler Naquin, his roommate last season with the Carolina Mudcats.

The Akron ball club was known as the Aeros since 1997. The new nickname is a nod to the city’s history as a manufacturing hub famous for tires, like B.F. Goodrich and Goodyear.

The Ducks open Double-A Eastern League play Thursday evening with the first of a four-game set at Binghamton, N.Y. The home opener at Canal Park is April 10.

HOF names due soon

Nominations are due for the 2014 Cardinal Pride HOF by May 1. The nomination form is available at Willmar High School website.

You may also enhance the athletic biographies of individuals already nominated. The cache of names already submitted is listed in the Cardinal Pride Spring 2014 newsletter.

Nominated student-athletes need to be out of school at least 10 years, which means 2004 graduates are now eligible.

5 who sang

The Cardinals didn’t get a team into either of the state hoop shows, but the school did have a voice.

A male quintet from the high school sang the anthem before the Class A championship game on March 22 at Williams Arena.

Introduced as the “Five Guys from Willmar” were Matt Bays, Scott Freitas, Cameron Haugen, Tom Kerstetter and Josh O’Connell.

Reports indicate it was exceptionally well done and received with “huge applause,” according to Neal Haugen, director of choral music.

The Willmar 5 also sang before the Class A Boys Swimming and Diving Meet. So impressive was their straightforward, harmonious rendition that an MSHSL official immediately extended an invitation to do the same on the final day of the buckets tournament.

Ben Olson honored

Youth hockey coach Ben Olson has been selected as a recipients of the Minnesota Hockey Coaching Excellence Award. The accolade recognizes youth hockey coaches across Minnesota whose behavior provides for a positive athletic experience while allowing players to develop to their greatest potential and also have fun and learn to love the game.

The award is one of three areas of emphasis in Minnesota Hockey’s Hockey Education Program. HEP focuses on integrating a progressive approach to skill development with coaching excellence and accountability through Fair Play to ensure every player in Minnesota has a positive experience in youth hockey

Ben, who coaches Girls 12U, was awarded with a certificate and will be invited to attend a Minnesota Wild practice as a special guest of Minnesota Hockey next season.

Ben is a 1993 Willmar graduate and his wife Tanya (Jorgenson) a ’95 grad. They have three girls, two in the 12U program. This past winter 12U counted 14 girls while 10U had 16 with strong numbers also reported at the Mite/8U level.

Tennis, maybe

The Cardinal tennis team has 35 boys out, said coach Jim Anderson.

The forecast makes Thursday’s season/home opener vs. Mankato West iffy.

Ten monogram winners return: Captains Nick Courtney and Isaac Yoakum, Jaden Wright, Alex Bateman, Alex Reynolds, Drew Corneil, Tate Hovland, Nick Revier, Jarod Swoboda and Thomas Kerstetter.

Team strengths will be on the singles side while working to build stronger play on the doubles side, said Anderson, adding: “Our winter program has shown improvement in the players’ ground strokes, volleys and serving consistency. The Cardinals have high expectations for a competitive season.”

On the fly

n Following six years on the Cardinals’ varsity swim team, Alissa Tinklenberg polished off her four years of collegiate competition by running her career total to 12 All-America ribbons at the NCAA Division-III meet. Her Gustavus coach, Jon Carlson, was quoted: “What I saw tonight from Alissa was the same thing I’ve seen from her over and over again during her time here. She continues to amaze and inspire. I know everyone has to graduate, but we lost a true treasure and a special girl tonight when Tink swam her final two races.”

n Skip Dolan got his Annandale Cardinals to the Class AA boys final before losing to Esko. Dolan told MSHSL writer John Millea. “That’s where I got my drive, from Renville. I love what I do.” Skip was the Indians’ starting guard for three seasons, two of those State tournament teams in ’71 and ’72.

n Postseason honors for boys hockey not previously published: Hobey Baker Award, Hunter Mottinger; Minnesota Great 8 Tournament: Buzzy Tollefson, Mottinger; Section 3A Academic Team Award (3.70 gpa); runner-up State Class A Academics.

n With the purchase of replacement hockey jerseys, previous home jerseys are being sold for $40 each. Contact coach Dan Tollefson at tollefsond@msn.com 

n Good to see former Cardinal ace Heather Horning in fine form this spring pitching for the Ridgewater Warriors. She appears to have recovered nicely from a senior season tormented by injury. In non-conference play she’s 7-2 with a 2.36 ERA, 57 strikeouts and 21 walks in 56.1 innings.

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Rand Middleton

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334
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