The Willmar Softball Association is in its first year of existence, but didn’t prevent it from producing a pair of league champions.
Willmar’s 10-and-under and 12-and-under youth softball teams won Crow River League tournament championships over the weekend.
The 12U team won the Bronze Division title in Hutchinson, beating five teams.
The 10U team won the Gold Division title in Annandale that featured eight teams.
Both teams also participated in state tournaments.
The 12U team went 1-2 at the Minnesota Softball Association’s state tournament in Rockford. The 10U squad wound up in second place in its state tournament in Circle Pines.
Andrew Kveene and Kelly Zuidema helped start the Willmar Softball Association in January. Kveene described the first year of play as an unqualified success.
“It’s a testimony to the girls how well everything went,” said Kveene, who coached the 12U team with Dain Kalkbrenner and Jon Konold.
Zuidema coached the 10U squad with Matt Carroll and Anthony Stern.
Kveene said his group’s goal is to teach softball skills, the meaning of teamwork and encouraging positive outcomes.
“Our No. 1 goal is empowerment,” Kveene said. “In this day and age, we want the girls to know they are empowered to achieve.”
Kveene, a Willmar Senior High graduate, moved back to the area nine months ago and saw that there was no youth travel fast-pitch softball in town. Willmar has a park and recreation program that is in-house. He thought there was an opportunity to give more athletes a chance to play at a competitive level.
Team members of the 12U team are: Kenlie Blom, Hailey Bush-Gregory, Olivia Erickson, Grace Kalkbrenner, Anna Konold, Addison Kveene, Logyn Linn, Nora Mitteness, Sophia Negen, Norah Nesges, Isley Ripperger and, Sophia Slagter.
Team members of the 10U team are: Brynnlee Carroll, Haddie Carroll, Kya Doyle, Malea Hansen, Amelia Kveene, Aliya Reiman, Emmy Saulsbury, Aubree Slagter, Kensley Stern, Brooklyn Wandsworth, Harper Wilson, Sydney Zuidema and Ava Zwagerman
The Atwater 12U baseball team won its state title last weekend in Shakopee. Atwater went 6-0, beating Wayzata in the championship game.
“The little guys did it,” said J.J. Strohman, who coaches the team with Ryan Buer.
Atwater played in the Gopher State League Tournament of Champions.
Team members are Blake Buer, Jaciel Cardenas, Karter Cunningham, Regan Elton, Gradyn Grahn, Brayden Johnson, Dylan Magnuson, Caden Miller, Brayden Schroeder and Rylan Summerlet. The bat boy is Bennet Elton.