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Section baseball and softball: Trojans face interesting matchups

WORTHINGTON -- Memorial Day weekend is no time to relax for the Worthington High School baseball and softball teams.

Today is a tournament day, and a loss today means the end of a season.

WHS baseball head coach Stacy Sauerbrei isn't ready for that at all. "I like being around these guys. I'm not ready to give that up for the summer," he said Friday.

Sauerbrei, who has coached many of the 2013 Trojans since they were 9 years old and learning the game through YMCA ball, sends his outfit up against St. James at 1 p.m. today in a first-round game in Fairmont. St. James is the tournament's No. 4 seed. Worthington is No. 5.

Meanwhile, WHS softball mentor Josh Wasmund has an 11 a.m. game today against top-seeded Montevideo in Marshall. The Trojans are seeded No. 6.

Both Trojan teams face difficult tasks today, but both head into their challenges feeling good about what they've done lately. The softball squad defeated third-seeded Southwest Conference foe Jackson County Central 4-2 in first-round tournament action Tuesday, and though the Trojans were beaten in their next game, 13-0 in five innings, to second-seeded New Ulm, Wasmund knows his team is quite capable.

"We've hit the ball very well all season," he said on Friday.

At 5-13 on the season, WHS' ability to hit the ball is well documented statistically. Aleanna Heig leads the team in batting with a .588 average. Paige Kinley is hitting at a .528 clip and Betsy Thompson is at .487. Catcher KC Riley, who has driven in 24 runs, leads the team with seven home runs and sports a .465 average. Senior Sarah Ebbers, who handles the bulk of the pitching duties, has a 4-9 record with an 8.60 earned run average.

Worthington is the obvious underdog against the Thunder Hawks, but the No. 1 seed is certainly beatable. The Trojans' Southwest Conference rival Redwood Valley --the tournament's fourth seed --surprised Montevideo 10-1 on Thursday. Worthington played two close games with Redwood Valley on May 16, earning a split.

Wasmund said that in preparation for Montevideo, he has had his Trojans practice defense.

"We've really been working the last two days on our bunt plays, getting our players moving their feet as they come up to throw," he said, adding that the goal today is to put the ball in play and make the necessary plays in the field.

In other Section 3AA softball games in Marshall today involving area teams, Redwood Valley plays New Ulm at 12:30 p.m. and top-seeded Pipestone Area plays Morris Area (No. 3), also at 12:30 p.m.

On the baseball side of things, the Trojans have maneuvered through their share of hills and valleys in 2013. On Monday, Worthington lost a doubleheader at Redwood Valley after posting an impressive 3-0 victory over Pipestone Area on May 16. But on Tuesday they swept a good Windom Area team 3-2 and 3-1.

"After the Windom doubleheader, I think we've played real well. We bounced back from some adversity in Redwood on Monday. The kids came out and were dynamite," Sauerbrei said. "I'm excited about tomorrow. The boys are excited about tomorrow. We're going to play a good St. James team."

Sauerbrei sees St. James as a disciplined outfit that won't swing at bad pitches. The Saints have pitched well, themselves, this year and possess a victory over top-seeded Fairmont.

Heading into today's tournament action, Worthington is sporting a .316 team batting average. Blake Rogers leads the team with a .468 average and with three home runs. Aaron Pavelko is hitting .373, Ryan Lee .370, Deron Soderholm .354 and Tyler Hatterman .347. Rogers is 2-0 in the pitching department with two saves and a 1.50 earned run average. Lee is 2-1 with a 2.94 ERA and Soderholm is 2-0 with a 3.20 ERA.

If the Trojans are able to dispatch St. James today, they will play again at 3:30 p.m. (the tournament is a double-elimination affair after the first round) and possibly face Fairmont. The Cardinals earned the outright South Central Conference championship on Tuesday with a 12-1 five-inning victory over New Ulm, the tournament's No. 2 seed.

In other first-round Section 3AA games today involving area schools, No. 6. Red Rock Central/Westbrook Walnut Grove plays No. 3 Benson at 1 p.m. in Marshall, No. 7 Pipestone Area plays No. 2 New Ulm at 11 a.m. in New Ulm, and No. 6 Jackson County Central plays No. 3 Luverne at 1 p.m. in New Ulm.

Many other area baseball and softball teams participate today in Section 3A action.

In baseball, top-seeded Windom Area hosts No. 8 Murray County Central at 11 a.m. and Edgerton/Southwest Christian (No. 5) plays Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (No. 4) at Windom at 1 p.m. In Milroy, Southwestern United (No. 10) plays No. 2 Wabasso at 11 a.m. and Adrian (No. 6) plays No. 3 Springfield at 1 p.m.

In softball, No. 4 Edgerton/Southwest Christian plays No. 2 Dawson-Boyd at 12:30 p.m. in Cottonwood. Also in Cottonwood, No. 1 Tracy-Milroy-Balaton plays No. 3 Ortonville at 11 a.m. and No. 6 Windom Area plays No. 5 Wheaton/Herman-Norcross, also at 11 a.m. First-game winners play again later today.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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