Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.
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WILLMAR - The New London-Spicer baseball understands how tough the grind can become as the Wildcats dig deeper into the postseason. Case in point: Needing two games to finally dispatch Luverne and wrap up the Section 3AA championship last week. But their road to a state championship in their first Class AA state tournament appearance presents an even bolder underscore. The unseeded Wildcats (18-5) open the Class AA tournament at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against Pierz at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud.
SARTELL - The Willmar VFW Post 1639 baseball team earned a split of its two opening-day games at the Central Minnesota VFW Baseball Classic on Friday. Post 1639 got two solid pitching performances, capped by Jayden Dierenfeld's one-hitter in a 4-0 win over Sartell in a losers bracket game Friday evening. Willmar lost their opener to Maple Grove 2-0 but Bryan Weidemann also pitched well. "We didn't need any relief help," said Willmar head coach Tom DeBoer. "Jayden's pitch count was in the 70s and Bryan's was in the 80s. They were sharp from the get-go."
ST. PAUL — Willmar's Cayle Hovland placed sixth in the Class AA girls discus finals and Sophie Schmitz qualified for today's finals in the 800 run at the Minnesota State Track and Field Championships on Friday at Klas Field on the Hamline University campus. Hovland threw 127-feet, 1-inch, which was off her seed distance of 139-8. "She was a little disappointed as she has thrown much better in practice this week and the last several meets," said Willmar head coach Jerry Popp. "But quite a few of the throwers had a hard time adjusting to the ring and conditions."
MAKATO - ACGC made a spirited run in the Section 2A baseball tournament but the Falcons' season came to an end with a 10-2 loss to Martin Luther/GHEC/Truman in the section championship game on Thursday at Franklin Rogers Park. The Falcons, who made their way to the title game through the losers bracket, would have had to win twice over ML/GHEC/T to advance to the Class A state tournament. They finished the season 16-10.
WILLMAR - The Willmar Legion kicked of its 2017 season with solid performances at the plate and on the mound in an 11-3 victory over Granite Falls on Wednesday at Bill Taunton Stadium. Post 167 ripped 11 hits off three Post 69 pitchers and rang up seven runs in the first two innings. Noah Vreeman and Tyler Johnson both had two hits and drove in two runs and Brayden Sunder had two hits, drove in a run and scored three runs. Sam Vreeman, Caleb Ditmarson, Garrit Kooistra and Avery Smith all had hits and drove in runs.
SAUK RAPIDS — The Willmar boys and girls track and field teams qualified for the state meet in 10 events and four girls athletes earned championships at the Section 8AA meet Saturday at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School. The Willmar girls team placed second behind defending section champion Alexandria, and the Cardinals boys team placed 10th. The Sartell boys team won the 8AA championship, just 0.5 points ahead of second-place Rocori. The Minnesota State Track and Field Championships are Friday and Saturday at Hamline University in St. Paul.
ST. JOSEPH - Litchfield tennis player Josh Prahl, the Section 6A overall No. 1 singles seed, advanced to the section's individual semifinals with two victories on Wednesday at the College of St. Benedict. The tournament resumes Tuesday with semifinals matches at CSB. Prahl defeated Benson's Taylor Duncan 6-0, 6-0 and also defeated Foley's Tanner Tschumpert 6-0, 6-1.
BIRD ISLAND - BOLD's offensive firepower was on full display against Montevideo on Tuesday. The Warriors pounded 15 hits off three Thunder Hawks pitchers in a 17-7, five-inning win at Lions Memorial Park. Montevideo took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first but it was all BOLD after that. The Warriors scored four runs in the bottom of the inning, three more in the second and four in the third to take a 11-2 lead.
STILLWATER - The Willmar boys track and field team repeated as Minnesota State True Team Class AA champions and the Cardinals girls were Class AA runners-up for a second straight year during a cold, wet and windy Saturday at Stillwater High School. The Willmar boys scored 438 points to edge Mankato East by 22 points. The Willmar girls finished with 456 points. Rocori won with 479. The Cardinals boys team defended their title, despite losing several key competitors in almost every event, said Willmar head coach Jerry Popp.
While anglers undoubtedly remember fishing openers past marked by snow, sleet and freezing temperatures, they will fondly recall Saturday for just the opposite reasons. Sun-dappled waters and mid-summer temperatures greeted anglers who shoved off for Minnesota's 2017 opener on area lakes. Kandiyohi County-area anglers donned sunscreen, not thermal underwear, to gear up on Saturday and their luck was just as good with the fish as it was with the forecast.