Tribune Notebook: Willmar Cardinals baseball in top 10 mix

Cardinals 8th in Class AAA preseason poll; KMS, MACCRAY, BBE, Paynesville also ranked

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Willmar's Landon Ogdahl fist bumps his teammates as he is announced at the start of a matchup against the Little Falls Flyers at the Green Lakes Baseball Diamonds in Spicer on Tuesday, May 31, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

It could be a while before the Willmar baseball team takes the field. But when they do, the Cardinals have been picked as a team to look out for in Class AAA.

Willmar is ranked eighth in the Class AAA preseason poll released Sunday by the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association.

The Cardinals are the defending Central Lakes Conference champions after going 10-4 in the CLC and 15-7 overall. But they are the third CLC team in the preseason poll. Rocori is ranked seventh. Alexandria, which beat Willmar on the way to the Section 8AAA championship, is sixth.

Defending Class AAA state champion Benilde-St. Margaret’s is ranked first, followed by Mankato West, Mahtomedi, St. Thomas Academy and Grand Rapids.

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KMS' Isaac Rudningen slides back into first base to avoid getting tagged out while taking on New York Mills during a Section 6A baseball tournament matchup on Thursday, June 9, 2022, at Minnewaska Area High School.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Other ranked teams in the area include:


  • Three area teams are in the Class A top 10. Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (21-3 in ‘22) is in sixth. MACCRAY (17-7) is in ninth after winning the Section 3A championship last season. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (14-12) sits in 10th. The top three teams in Class A are: Randolph, Hayfield and New York Mills. 
  • Paynesville (21-2) is tied with Chatfield for 10th in Class AA. The top three teams in Class AA are: Fairmont, Watertown-Mayer and Foley. 

Carlson an All-American again

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Clay Carlson

South Dakota State senior wrestler and Willmar High School alum Clay Carlson became an All-American for the second time in his collegiate career.

Competing at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Carlson placed fifth at 141 pounds after going 6-2 over the two-day tournament.

Carlson was previously an All-American in 2021 after an eighth-place finish.

Going 27-10 this season, Carlson won the fifth-place match by injury default over Nebraska’s Brock Hardy after Hardy suffered an upper-body injury during the match. Over the tournament, Carlson beat Lehigh’s Malyke Hines (6-1 decision), Southern Illinois-Edwardsville’s Saul Ervin (3-2 dec), Northern Iowa’s Cale Happel (7-3 dec), Missouri’s Allan Hart (7-6 dec), and Purdue’s Parker Filius (3-1 dec).

South Dakota State finished in 14th place with 37 points. Along with Carlson, Tanner Sloan was an All-American after placing second at 197. Eight Jackrabbits qualified for the tournament. Penn State won the team championship with 137.5.

With a career record of 101-41, Carlson has a year of eligibility remaining.

Related Stories:
Paynesville has two athletes advancing after top performances in the Section 5A championships in Collegeville
Willmar battles rain, late Eau Claire rally to prevail 8-6
BBE's laid-back approach helps it claim its 2nd straight Section 5A championship
Four pitchers hold Blues to 5 hits as Rockets rally from an early deficit

Estrada earns NSIC honors

St. Cloud State graduate student designated player and Litchfield alum Jasmin Estrada was named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference’s Player of the Week, the league announced Monday.


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Jasmin Estrada

Helping the Huskies go 4-1 over the weekend, Estrada hit .500 (8-for-16) through four games with 11 RBIs, seven runs, three home runs and a pair of doubles. Against Wisconsin-Parkside, Estrada went 2-for-3 with five RBIs, a home run and a double. Then against Bemidji State, Estrada hit a three-run home run and a double in the Huskies’ win.

With a walk-off three-run home run against Concordia-St. Paul, Estrada became SCSU’s career RBI leader, breaking Brooke Gentzler’s previous mark of 161. After the weekend, Estrada has 170 career RBIs.

Through 25 games this season, Estrada is hitting .375 with a 1.057 OPS. She leads the team with five home runs and 25 RBIs and is tied for second with 30 hits.

Estrada and the Huskies are 15-10 this season. They play a doubleheader against Minnesota-Duluth on March 28.

More by Joe Brown:
Prep golf report for Wednesday, May 31, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Eagles earn their 5th straight Section 5A championship
KMS Fighting Saints eliminated in 3A playoffs, ending Eileen Suter’s 32-year run as the Saints’ head coach
Baseball report for Monday, May 29, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Rosen wins Land O' Ducks League contest over Plowboys, 6-3
Baseball report for Saturday, May 27, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Thunder Hawks beat NLS, ACGC to remain in 3AA winners' bracket
Prep softball report for Saturday, May 27, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Fighting Saints advance by beating Wabasso, 13-12; Edgerton/SWC up next
Yankees score 5 times in the bottom of the 8th inning to win the Corn Belt League game 8-4
Baseball report for Thursday, May 25, 2023, in west central Minnesota. No. 8 Litchfield hopes to get a replay of last year's Section 5AA playoffs after beating Maple Lake 4-2
Prep track and field report for Thursday, May 25, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Wildcats edge Litchfield girls 58-57 and Dragons' boys top NLS 61-46
Little Falls eliminate Willmar in five innings in the Section 8AAA playoffs
In this installment of the WCT Sports Show, Tom Elliott, Joe Brown and Michael Lyne discuss Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg softball and its standout head coach as well as Benson/KMS boys tennis making the trek to Minneapolis for the first time in 14 years. Plus, Section 3A-North baseball seeds are out.

Jaguars on the diamond

Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa has five alumni playing in college baseball diamonds across the region.

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Payton VanBeck

At Division II St. Cloud State, Payton VanBeck has pitched in four games for the Huskies. A junior left-hander, Payton has a 1-0 record with a 2.79 ERA with seven strikeouts and seven walks over 9-2/3 innings. He’s holding batters to a .257 average. SCSU is 8-7 this season.

At Division III St. John’s, Jackson Peter has started 12 of 16 games for the Johnnies. A sophomore shortstop, Peter’s hitting .250 with 12 hits, six RBIs and a .379 on-base percentage. He’s got a .936 fielding percentage with 15 putouts, 29 assists and three errors. St. John’s is 8-8 this season.


Three former Jaguars are on the roster for NJCAA Division III St. Cloud Techincal and Community College: Blaine Fischer, Will VanBeck and Peyton Winter. Winter is a sophomore second baseman/shortstop that has a .250 average over two games. Fischer, a freshman catcher, and VanBeck, a freshman outfielder, have each played in one game this season. The Cyclones have a 2-4 record.

Joe Brown is a sports reporter for the West Central Tribune.

He can be reached via email at: or his office number: 320-214-4332.
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