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Doug Wolter: Closing the chapter on spring

We are headlong into summer now. But before we get too far, there are just a few things I want to say about the spring high school sports season -- and a few other things I want to get off my chest.

We are headlong into summer now. But before we get too far, there are just a few things I want to say about the spring high school sports season -- and a few other things I want to get off my chest.

First, a whine.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s fun to travel north to see section baseball and softball games, but really, folks. Why must the biggest games in those big tournaments, when a neutral site must be found, always have to go through the far north reaches of Section 3? Cottonwood has a very nice softball field, and of course Marshall and Milroy have nice facilities, too. But the southern part of the section contains outstanding venues as well.

Every year, it’s always the same. North. Always north. Let those north teams come our way once in a while.

Harrumph.

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OK. On to something else.

I covered the state fast-pitch softball tournament at Caswell Field in North Mankato again this year, and then went to Hamline University in St. Paul for state track and field. I didn’t get to go to state baseball because, well, we didn’t have a team make it from these southwest Minnesota parts.

But let me be the first to say I love Caswell Park and Hamline for those state events. Especially Caswell, which is the perfect place for a state softball tourney. They do a great job over there, and this year after a hard overnight rain on Thursday, the smiling grounds crew did its usual masterful job of getting the field ready for Friday.

I have always loved Caswell Park. I played an awful lot of men’s fast-pitch softball on it over the years, and it’s always been my favorite place to play. I tell people that Caswell Park is “my church,” though I must stop it because my middle daughter Kari thinks it borders on sacrilege.

Nothing’s for certain The area team that seemed to have the best chance for a state baseball berth seemed to be Luverne, for almost an entire spring season. The Cardinals exploded out of the chute and literally beat everybody in sight until late in the regular season. They had a deep pitching staff, dependable hitters and a veteran coach -- Mike Wenninger -- who pushed his players hard but in such a way that the players bought into it hook, line and sinker.

Alas, it was Paynesville that advanced to state, not Luverne. The Bulldogs beat LHS 16-7 in the Section 3AA semifinals, then beat Luverne again in a true championship game 7-4 after losing to the Cards earlier on the same day, 7-3.

Paynesville (19-4) opened state tournament play Thursday at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud against Jordan (14-8). The Bulldogs are the No. 3 seed in Class AA.

Softball stuff It was a great moment when Pipestone Area catcher Logan Winter delivered a bases-loaded walk-off single with two outs and a 3-1 count on her in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat Annandale 1-0 and secure a third-place Class AA state softball trophy for her team.

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Talking to her after the game, I was especially impressed with her modesty. Now, if most of us were in that situation we would have (a) milked it for all it was worth, knowing full well we’ll probably never experience another moment so grand, or (b) said something incredibly stupid because we’d be so unprepared for being the center of attention.

But Logan wasn’t like that at all. I wish every high school kid were as friendly, poised and confident as that (some are, actually). Her final comment was this: “I think anyone could have stepped up in that position. It just happened to be me in that spot.”

I really think she really meant that.

Great kid.

Track stuff First off in the Saturday afternoon Class A track and field meet, the Luverne foursome of Regan Feit, Jadyn Anderson, Tenley Nelson and Brooklyn VerSteeg won the girls 4x800-meter relay.

So I met them coming around the corner of the tent area after they posed on the medal stand, and when we all saw each other it immediately became giddiness squared.

I’d spoken to them during the regular season, so they knew me. I did a Drill episode with Jadyn, too, and she’s got such an easygoing personality I felt like I’d known her all my life.

All four of them couldn’t wait to talk to me about their remarkable feat. In fact, they said repeatedly that they could hardly believe it’s real. Sometimes when they described what they’d just done, they stopped to catch themselves, saying, “Oh God! I can’t believe it!” or something like that.

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It was just a really fun moment. They reminded me of my three daughters when they were that age. All girl. Not afraid of being silly. I’m so happy for them, even now. Every time I think of it. Why, I even feel a little giddy myself.

Other stuff

  • Congratulations again to Worthington Trojans boys tennis player Blaine Doeden, who rose to the occasion this spring to qualify for the state tournament. Blaine has that rare ability to focus, to play within himself, and to exhibit exceptional patience in a sport where such qualities are especially necessary. He has another year left in his high school career. We should feel fortunate to watch him continue his progression for another season.
  • And another shout-out to Pipestone Area track and field star Tyl Woelber, who wasn’t able to repeat as a high jump champion in his senior year due, at least in part, to a minor injury he sustained at Hamline. He is one of the best all-around male athletes southwest Minnesota has produced in years, and he’s also generous with his time and is unfailingly polite.
    He’s also a good sport. In a true sportsmanlike manner, he accepted his fate at the state meet, satisfied with his good run and the two medals he did win. Best of luck in the future, Tyl.
  • The 2018 spring sports season started off in misery. Practically the entire first month was washed out or colded out or snowed out. The schedule-makers must have been pulling out their hair for weeks.
    And yet, our fine athletes and their reassuring coaches were ready when the chips were on the line. Golf teams from Worthington (boys) and Murray County Central (boys and girls) made state. Several individual golfers, including the Trojans’ Anneke Weg, played exceptionally at their section tournaments. Worthington had a state track and field qualifier, too, in Obang Ojulu.
  • Of course, we can’t forget the perennially powerful Edgerton/Southwest Christian softball team, which placed second in state Class A. The Flying Dutchmen epitomized the never-say-die attitude that makes high school athletics so compelling, rallying for five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to give New York Mills a legitimate scare in the title game, which NYM hung on to win, 9-6. I actually thought the Eagles were going to lose after all. They didn’t, of course. But it was fun seeing them sweat.

  

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
What To Read Next
ST. CLOUD -- The Minnesota West women’s basketball team eased to victory over host St. Cloud Tech on Saturday, 93-40. But it was St. Cloud Tech getting the better of the West men’s team, 84-64.
WORTHINGTON -- Morris-Benson started well in both games, sweeping the Worthington Trojans girls and boys hockey teams on Saturday.
The Worthington Trojans earned their highest ever place at a Minnesota Class A True Team meet with a score of 174.525. Big Lake won the meet with a score of 176.2.
Friday night high school sports roundup: