Tribune notebook: Ridgewater baseball has a big week
Warriors can earn their first regional berth since 2016 with some wins
WILLMAR — There have been some ups and downs in Ridgewater's first baseball season since 2019.
But the Warriors believe they can end 2022 with huge 'up' by finishing strongly and earning their first regional berth since 2016.
"My coaches and I were talking about how that would be a great way to frame our first season in three years," Ridgewater head coach Tyler Hebrink said.
They have some work to do.
The Warriors need to finish in the top three in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference Central Division standings. Central Lakes College (9-3 MCAC Central, 22-12 overall) and St. Cloud Technical & Community College (9-5, 16-9) have likely secured the top two spots.
That leaves Ridgewater (5-7, 9-15), Minnesota State-Fergus Falls (3-7, 9-19) and Anoka-Ramsey Community College (2-6, 4-16) battling it out for the third berth.
To secure that berth, Ridgewater needs to wrap up the regular season with as many wins as possible.
That starts with a doubleheader against Riverland Community College beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Bill Taunton Stadium's Baker Field.
"Those are big games for us," Hebrink said.
The Warriors then wrap up the season with a home doubleheader at 1 p.m. Saturday against Minnesota State-Fergus Falls. The two teams then play two more beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday in Fergus Falls.
Ridgewater is coming off a strong weekend in which it swept Riverland on Sunday after splitting with Anoka-Ramsey on Friday night. Winning two on Wednesday and three out of four this weekend would assure Ridgewater of a regional berth May 13-15 in St. Cloud.
"That would be great after all we've been through," Hebrink said.
The Warriors have a strong lineup with a .282 batting average, .365 on-base percentage and .461 slugging percentage. They've slugged 18 home runs in 24 games.
Five starters are having especially strong offensive seasons: Brad Bickman (7 HR, 24 RBI, .410/.500.846), Tyler Flis (3 HR, 14 RBI, .362/.407/.600), Josh Robb (1 HR, 7 RBI, .326/.442/.419), Bennett Knapper (6 RBI, .316/.357/.500) and Tyler Traphgaen (5 HR, 16 RBI, .286/.368/.571).
And, Ridgewater's top pitching has been decent, led by Reece Schwirtz (3-2, 4.39 ERA in 26-2/3 innings), Jadrien Keavy (1-1, 4.00, 9 IP) and Brad Bickmann (3-1, 5.92, 24-1/3 IP). But when the Warriors have had to go deeper into their pitching staff, bad things have happened. They have a team ERA of 8.04.
But, Hebrink is seeing good things. Freshmen Jack Howard an Ayden Gustafson both had strong performances over the weekend. He said both are making strides, especially Gustafson, a hard-throwing right-hander. Both he and Howard are from Renville County West.
And, the Warriors are a young team. Regardless of what happens this week, everyone is back except for Traphagen, the speedy center fielder and lead-off hitter, and first baseman Seth Resnick.
Resnick is headed to Southwest Minnesota State, the NCAA Division II program in Marshall and a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, next season. Resnick is from Woodstock, Georgia and North Cobb Christian High School.
New Cards coach
Rebekah Cleary has been hired to be the new Willmar girls soccer coach, pending school board approval. Her hiring was made public Monday on Willmar Athletics' Twitter site @cardsathletics.
Cleary takes over for Amanda Sellner, who was head coach for four seasons. Sellner's squad finished with an 11-5-2 record in 2021. The Cards took second in the Central Lakes Conference with an 8-2-1 mark, just behind Brainerd's 9-1 record. It was one of the program's best seasons.
Hansen repeats as champ
Former Willmar star Leah Hansen has repeated as a champion at the Drake Relays. Hansen, a senior on the South Dakota State women's track and field team, won the 10,000-meter run with a time of 34 minutes, 49.31 seconds. She is the first athlete to since 1995 and '96 to win consecutive titles and the third to repeat as a champ in the women's 10K all-time.
Hansen was named the TicketSmarter Summit League Women's Outdoor Track Athlete of the Week on Tuesday. It's the first time Hansen has received the outdoor honor.
NLS hall class set
New London-Spicer's 2022 class for its athletic hall of fame has been named.
The seven inductees are:
* Jessica Dahl-Delzer, 1998, volleyball, basketball, softball;
* Dan Essler, 1989-2021, football, wrestling, track coach;
* Margaret Essler, 1987-2021, volleyball, basketball, track coach;
* Shawn Hatlestad, 2011, football, wrestling, baseball;
* Aaron Johnson, 2010, football, basketball, track;
* Erik Tengwall, 2010, football, basketball track;
* Brandon Zylstra, 2011, football, basketball, track.
The NLS Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet is 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15 at Little Crow Country Club. The banquet features members of the 2020 and '22 hall of fame classes as well as recognition of the 1997 girls basketball team, the first state championship team in school history.
Contact NLS activities director Thayne Johnson at 320-354-2252, extension 2603, for more information.
Willmar boys soccer coach Jeff Winter reports that Jorge Zelaya-Velasquez has decided to continue his career at Hamline University in St. Paul.
Winter also expects at least three other Cardinals from last fall's state tournament team to join the new men's soccer team at Alexandria Technical & Community College in the fall. They are goaltender Edwin Lopez, forward/striker Jairo Martinez-Coto and midfielder Diego Gonzalez.
Alex Tech will be coached by Tom Roos, who was the long-time Alexandria high school girls soccer coach.
Legion softball state
The first Minnesota American Legion softballstate
tournament will be July 30-31 at Jaycee Park in Mankato. Mankato American Legion Post 11 is the the host. Legion softball for girls is being sponsored for the first time in 2022. Programs can register at minnesotalegionsoftball.com.