Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.
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What was once new will be old again -- or, what was once old will be new again. Something like that. The old, single-division West Central Conference is back this season. Sort of. This season, the West Central Conference will not be divided into North and South divisions, as it had been for many years. Albany and New London-Spicer -- which begins its first season in the Wright County Conference -- have departed.
A quick start will be imperative for the three area teams opening play in the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament the next two weekends. For the first time this season, the Class C field has been expanded to 48 teams, but those teams will get just one shot and keeping their seasons alive since the tournament also for the first time has adop-ted a one-and-done format instead of double elimination. "I told our guys that if we play well we have a good chance of winning," said Bird Island manager Mike Nagel, whose Bullfrogs play Ada in the first round at 7:30 p.m.
Two years ago, even the most proud and stubborn Renville County West football fan had to be thinking the end was near. The team was down to a handful of players and had to forfeit half its varsity games because of the low numbers.
CHASKA -- So many dramatic twists and comedic turns have been played out in the Lac qui Parle Valley baseball team's season that it was fitting that head coach Bart Hill would liken the Eagles to a popular yet fictional band of misfits and believers who came out on top in the end. "Never, never, never would have believed it would come down to this," said a jubilant Hill after his Eagles defeated Browerville 4-1 on Friday to secure a spot in Monday's Class A championship game at Target Field. "We're like the 'Bad News Bears'," he said.
For Central Minnesota prep baseball fans thinking about a BOLD vs. Lac qui Parle Valley matchup in the Class A state tournament, you'll have to wait for a Monday championship game at Target Field. The Eagles and Warriors open the tournament today on opposite sides of the eight-team bracket, and there are plenty of pitfalls for both teams to clear before the dream game could become reality. Changes improved LQPV Section 3A champion LQPV (16-9) plays Section 7A winner Ely (20-3) at 12:30 p.m. today at Chaska Athletic Park.
The 2012 Class A consolation champion Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg Fighting Saints lead this year's Tribune All-Area Softball Team with five players on the 20-player squad. Juniors Samantha Dunn, Erin Haglund and Courtney Olson are repeat selections, and joining them on the team this year are Saints teammates Brielle Hauge and Ellen Johnson. The five Saints were the driving force behind a team that lost 3-2 to eventual state champion Cherry in the first round of the Class A tournament, then scored 22 runs in two games to earn a fifth-place finish.
Ken Grunig has watched Kendra Schmidgall ply her considerable athletic skills on dusty ball diamonds and under the fluorescent lights of gymnasiums for years, four of them from the dugout as varsity coach of the Benson/Hancock Brave Owls softball team. But his most lasting image of the Hancock senior might be the day she showed up at his doorstep, as a tall, lanky fifth-grader, looking not for instructions on how to improve her post moves or batting stroke, but for lessons on how to become a flute player. And just eight years later, she's got all of that down, as well as a pretty good sense
Lac qui Parle Valley teacher and baseball coach Bart Hill had Eagles senior sports star Sam Haas as an elementary student. He recalls a young boy who was up for anything. "During recess, they'd be on the playground and it didn't matter if it was kickball or jumping rope, kids would be saying, 'Hey Sam, come over here with us,' " Hill said. "It didn't matter what the game was or who they were, Sam would join them. He'd do anything and he was good at it, but he would never show anybody up.
NORTH MANKATO -- All season, the KMS Saints softball team had been the masters of the sport's big three elements: lights-out pitching, power hitting and air-tight defense. On Thursday afternoon, the Saints had trouble with two of the three and it cost them a shot at the Class A state championship. The Saints' power-packed offense managed just two hits and struck out 12 times against Cherry ace Shaina Novak and two crucial errors in the fifth allowed the Tigers to score the difference-making runs in a 3-2 Cherry victory at Caswell Park. "There's no room for error when you get to this point (
The KMS softball team has a whale of an offense, producing more than 11 runs a game this season as the Saints compiled a 22-0 record and put themselves in the Class A state tournament for a second straight year. But, in reality, most of the big numbers have been as necessary as frosting on a brownie. When a team can pitch and play defense like KMS, every Saints' run scored has to feel like a touchdown or two to an opponent. The Saints' two top pitchers this season, Erin Haglund and Sam Dunn, have 13-0 and 9-0 records, respectively, and the team has allowed an average of just 0.96 runs per g