Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.
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To understand what stirs Cayle Hovland at her athletic core, consider this: The Willmar three-sport star holds the Cardinals track and field program's all-time discus record of 139-feet, 8-inches. In second? Hovland's mom, Jill. Cayle is No. 2 all-time with a shot put of 42-feet, 9 inches. Who's No. 1? Yep, you guessed it. Mom.
As his star guard headed to the basket, Willmar boys basketball coach Matt Williams bounded from his chair toward the scorer's table and Cardinals players started rising in anticipation from their seats on the bench. When Noah Slagter's shot dropped through the net, Williams immediately signalled for a timeout and the Cards began celebrating Slagter reaching the 1,000-point career milestone in a Dec. 28, 2016 victory over New London-Spicer.
AVON - The Willmar Legion Post 167 won both its games at the Albany Wood Bat Tournament on Saturday. Willmar defeated the St. Cloud Chutes 4-2 and downed Dassel-Cokato 8-6 in nine innings. Against the Chutes, Willmar's Nate Spencer had a run-scoring pinch hit single in the sixth inning to drive in the eventual winning run. Caleb Ditmarson worked all seven innings, allowing an earned run on three hits while striking out eight. Against D-C, Willmar tied the game at 5-5 with runs in the fourth and fifth innings that erased a two-run deficit.
ATWATER - The Willmar VFW team unloaded on Atwater pitching early and Post 1639 came away with an 11-4 win on Friday. Willmar's Ashton Gregory had two doubles and scored a run, and Asaiah Smith and Jett Solanek both had two hits and scored twice. Adam Bengtson doubled and drove in three runs. Tanner Bauman and Dylan Arndorfer both had hits and drove in two runs, with Bauman scoring two runs and Arndorfer scoring once. Four Post 1639 pitchers combined to allow just four unearned runs on four hits and they struck out 10. Reliever Sam Huseby got the win.
WILLMAR - Willmar turned a tight pitchers' duel into a blowout, scoring nine runs in the fifth and sixth innings and defeating Tri-Town 10-2 on Thursday at Bill Taunton Stadium. Post 167's Kaden Kessler-Gross was 2-for-2 with two walks, drove in two runs and scored three times. Tyler Johnson was 3-for-4 and scored twice, and Jack Baumgart, Jon Broman and Blake VanDenEinde all had two hits. Willmar's Tyler Johnson worked six innings to get the win. He allowed two runs on four hits and he struck out six.
WATERLOO, Iowa - The Willmar Stingers dug a huge hole against Waterloo and could never climb out, losing the first game of the Northwoods League North Division second-half race 10-6 on Wednesday. Waterloo took an 8-0 lead after just two innings and three Bucks pitchers held the Stingers mostly at bay the rest of the way. The Stingers' Matt Rudick, Eli Wilson, Jayson Newman and Joey Ortiz all had two hits and drove in runs, and Nic Hernandez had three hits and scored a run.
WILLMAR - Eric Yang and Cal Elvers both hit home runs and combined to drive in seven runs as the Willmar Stingers defeated Eau Claire 12-5 on Monday night at Bill Taunton Stadium. Yang hit a two-run home run in the Stingers' four-run first inning and Elvers hit a three-run bomb in a five-run third that broke open a 4-4 tie. The Stingers added three more runs in the sixth inning on a Tyler Reichenborn double, John Trousdale's sacrifice fly and Jayson Newman's run-scoring single. Newman also drove in a run in the first on a sacrifice fly.
WILLMAR - Andy Jacobson held off stiff challenges in the final nine holes to win the 88th annual Lakeland Golf Tournament on Sunday at Eagle Creek Golf Club. Jacobson shot 209 in the 54-hole tournament to best Brady Madsen by two shots and claim his ninth Lakeland championship. Sunday's final holes were delayed almost five hours because of rainy conditions. With nine holes remaining, Jacobson led Danny Anderson by three shots, Madsen by four and Levi Hauser by six. Madsen closed strong for his second-place finish, and Anderson finished four shots back at 213.
WILLMAR - The Willmar Stingers pulled off two wins over St. Cloud on the weekend, defeating the Rox 7-3 on Sunday in Willmar and taking a 7-6 victory in 11 innings on Saturday in St. Cloud in a Northwoods League home-and-home series. On Sunday, Corey Binger allowed just five hits and struck out five over eight innings to get the win. John Trousdale hit a three-run home run in the fifth inning—his second homer in the series—and he finished with four RBIs. Matt Rudick had three hits.
It seemed to take forever for the winter season to end and the prep baseball season to begin. But once the boys got outdoors, they provided area fans with some of the best ball they've seen in some time. Willmar (14-8) and Paynesville (19-6) both won section championships and advanced to the Minnesota State Baseball Tournament, Willmar for the first time since 1987.