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Prep softball: Field is set for sections 3A, 3AA

Section softball is around the corner, and once again the Edgerton/Southwest Christian Flying Dutchmen and the Pipestone Area Arrows are taking to the sky.

The Dutchmen are seeded No. 1 in Section 3A and the Arrows are the top seed in Section 3AA, which is not unusual. The two teams have dominated southwest Minnesota softball for years, and they’ve both fared very well in state tournament action, too.

This year, however, they may be tested in sectional play. A solid Murray County Central team, led by workhorse pitcher Amanda Muecke, is the No. 2 seed in the southern half of 3A, and a good Wabasso team (seeded third) hopes to give itself a chance. In 3AA, the Luverne Cardinals -- seeded No. 2 in the south -- have been impressive behind veteran pitcher Rylee Olson.

But until the favorites succumb, they’re still the teams to beat. Both have been rolling along this season and appear ready to pick up where they left off last year.

Pipestone Area placed third in the Minnesota state Class AA tournament last June as ace hurler Shelby Bloemendaal threw an eight-inning two-hit shutout over Annandale in the third-place game. Bloemendaal has graduated along with Logan Winter, who drove in the winning run against Annandale. But All-Big South Conference players Mandi Miller and Paige Ahrendt are still going strong, as are Adrianna Johnson and Kaitlyn Draper, who earned conference honorable mention last season.

Veteran Pipestone Area coach Troy Bouman earned his 450th victory during the regular season.

Ellsworth/Southwest Christian is coming off a second-place state Class A finish, losing to New York Mills 9-6 in the championship game despite scoring five runs in the bottom of the seventh. Sierra Van Dyke is back this year to pitch, and seasoned veterans Jazzy Prins, Liz Prins, Hannah Nerem, Jessa Nibbelink and Gabby Buckridge provide excellent depth.

The Section 3A tournament begins Tuesday with rounds one and two. South openers have Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (seeded fifth) playing Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove (4) at 4 p.m. in Edgerton, Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda (7) playing Murray County Central at 3 p.m. in Slayton, and Adrian (6) playing Wabasso (3) at 4:30 p.m. in Slayton.

The winner of the R-T-R vs. RRC/W-WG game plays top-seeded E/SWC at 5:30 p.m. in Edgerton. And the winners of HL-O/F vs. MCC and Adrian vs. Wabasso play at 6 p.m. in Slayton.

Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg is the No. 1 seed in the north half of the section.

The Section 3AA tournament also begins Tuesday with rounds one and two. Pipestone Area  hosts Redwood Valley (8) at 3 p.m., followed by Windom Area (5) vs. Jackson County Central (4) at 4:30 p.m., also in Pipestone. The winners of those two games play again at 6 p.m. in Pipestone.

Luverne hosts Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (7) at 3 p.m., followed by Martin County West (6) vs. St. James Area (3) at 4:30. The winners of those two games play at 6 p.m. in Luverne.

Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta is the top seed in the north.

The Worthington Trojans are scheduled to open Section 2AAA competition on Saturday, May. 25. Seeding has yet to take place.