John's Journal
Waconia Makes History, Completes Perfect Season 6/19/2017
Waconia High School baseball coach Mark Grundhofer knew what had just happened: His Wildcats had completed a perfect season by defeating Hibbing 6-1 Monday at Target Field in the Class 3A state championship game.

They became only the ninth baseball team in MSHSL history to win every game. When that fact was mentioned to Grundhofer, he grinned and said, “That’s crazy. In this game? Seriously? Who wins all their games?”

MSHSL state baseball tournaments have been held for 70 years. The first team to finish unbeaten was Chisholm, which went 16-0 in 1948. Four other schools did the same in the one-class era: Halstad went 13-0 in 1952, Austin went 15-0 in 1954, Little Falls finished 13-0 in 1957 and Richfield went 25-0 in 1965.

In the multi-class era, Cretin-Derham Hall was 29-0 in 1998, Eden Valley-Watkins was 27-0 in 2010 and St. Cloud Cathedral finished 25-0 in 2015.

Waconia’s record a year ago was 12-12, a fact that didn’t provide much of an omen for the Wildcats’ history-making 2017 season.

“No, you can’t see this coming,” Grundhofer said. “I knew the kids, the senior guys, those six guys, they learned a lot last year. We had a lot of mistakes last year that we got through. They came back here determined.”

Waconia pitcher Dillon Whittaker held Hibbing (19-9) hitless for three-plus innings, by which time the Wildcats held a 4-0 lead. Whittaker struck out six and walked none in going the seven-inning distance. Waconia banged out 10 hits, with Robbie Smith getting three and Alex Longelin and Austin Friedrich two apiece.

The Wildcats won their state quarterfinal and semifinal games in dramatic fashion, defeating Mahtomedi and Marshall by scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.

“They’re just mentally tough kids, Grundhofer said. “You could see the confidence they have in each other. They were ready to play and they wanted to get it done and not have to wait until the last inning. It helps the old coach out, that’s for sure.”

Class 1A: Parkers Prairie Takes The Next Step

One year after falling in an 11-inning state championship game, the Parkers Prairie Panthers defeated Legacy Christian 6-3 to claim their first baseball state title. In the 2016 championship game, Springfield defeated Parkers Prairie 4-2.

Levi Arnold, who finished the season with a 12-0 record on the mound, pitched a complete-game six-hitter as Parkers Prairie finished with a 26-2 record. He threw 92 pitches, striking out two and walking two. Travis Yohnke, Casey Peterson and Matt Ferley each had two hits for the Panthers. Jarvey Hill had two hits for Legacy Christian (21-5).

Class 2A: Minnehaha Academy Repeats

In a rematch of last year’s state semifinals, Minnehaha Academy defeated Pierz 6-4 to claim its second consecutive state title. In last year’s state semis, Minnehaha Academy defeated Pierz 4-2.

The Redhawks (26-2) broke a 4-4 tie with two runs in the seventh inning. With one out, a ball hit by Simon Huyck glanced off the first base bag and rolled deep into right field as Huyck went to second. Noah Dehne singled to score Huyck, and Dehne later scored on a double by Alex Evenson.

Alex Jordan had three hits for the Redhawks, while Lane Girtz and Matthew Kummet each had two hits for the Pioneers (26-3).

Class 4A: Unseeded Eden Prairie Wins

The Eden Prairie Eagles were seeded fourth in the Section 2 playoffs and not seeded among the top five teams in the eight-team state tourney field. But they are now state champions after defeating Forest Lake 5-1.

Winning pitcher Jack Zigan gave up three hits in seven innings for the Eagles (18-9). Forest Lake starter Cameron Kline struck out 12, walked two and gave up seven hits in six innings for the Rangers (20-7). Ryan Wrobleski and Matthew Dolan each drove in two runs for the Eagles.

Special Recognition For Merkle

Kevin Merkle, who has served with passion, dedication and commitment as an MSHSL associate director for 16 years, was honored during a brief ceremony before the Class 4A championship game. Kevin will transition to a part-time role with the MSHSL later this summer; longtime Mounds View High School activities director Bob Madison will succeed Kevin as associate director in charge of baseball, football, boys basketball and dance.

Twins president Dave St. Peter presented Kevin with a Twins jersey that had “Merkle” stitched on the back. St. Peter later Tweeted: “Few have had a more positive impact on MN HS athletics + activities than Kevin.”

All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A

Jesse Sather, Brett Sundquist, Fosston; Liam Blaschko, Wabasha-Kellogg; Taylor Bunting, Trevor Pederson, Skyler Reddemann, Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove; Josh Peterson, Nils Anderson, Ethan Mocchi, Legacy Christian;
Andrew Johnson, Travis Yohnke, Levi Arnold, Parkers Prairie.

Class 2A Wyatt White, New London-Spicer; Joe Macken, Rochester Lourdes; Derrick Winn, Peter Hansen, Duluth Marshall; Hunter Malachek, Ben Reilley, Maple Lake; Lane Girtz, Matthew Tautges, Matthew Kummet, Pierz; Alex Evenson, Justin Evenson, Bennett Theisen, Minnehaha Academy.

Class 3A Jamie Berg, Mahtomedi; Jake Rascher, St. Thomas Acasdemy; Conner Hammerback, Jake Drew, Alexandria; Mason Penske, Logan Tomasek, Marshall; Travis Carruth, Dylan Mattson, Anthony Kanipes, Hibbing; Dillon Whitaker, Jacob Hendricks, Alex Logelin, Waconia.

Class 4A Charlie Horton, Maple Grove; Tyler Young, Wayzata; Ronald Sweeny III, Max Meyer, Woodbury; Nick Split, Gavin Baker, Lakeville North; Cameron Kline, Jake Wensmann, Forest Lake; Zack Elliot, Connor Kehl, Bailey DeMets, Jack Zigan, Eden Prairie.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 800
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 12,001
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
3 Sports, 3 State Tournaments For Marshall’s Ryan VanMoer6/16/2017
Ryan VanMoer managed to smile just a little as we chatted Friday afternoon at Siebert Field. The third baseman for Marshall High School had played well in the Class 3A baseball state semifinals, with a walk, a strikeout, a single and triple from his No. 2 spot in the batting order.

The outcome wasn’t what the fifth-seeded Tigers wanted. They scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take a 6-4 lead over top-seeded and unbeatem Waconia, but the Wildcats came back to score three of their own in the bottom half of the inning, with Robbie Smith’s walk-off single driving in the winning run in Waconia’s 7-6 victory.

Ryan, a senior (pictured), had one game left in his high school baseball career; Marshall defeated Alexandria 10-9 later Friday in the third-place game. When I asked him about the memories he will take from high school athletics, he smiled and said, “The great teammates. That’s something special. The bonds that we’ve built with each team, it’s a family.”

VanMoer has been a part of several teams/families. He has been a three-sport athlete throughout high school, participating in football, basketball and baseball. His senior year has been one for the ages; Ryan played on teams that (take a deep breath here) reached the state semifinals in football, the state semifinals in basketball and the state semifinals in baseball. He also is a percussionist in marching band and will compete at the MSHSL clay target shooting championships next Saturday.

Two Marshall juniors – Nicholas Klaith and Jacob Hess – also played on the Tigers’ football, basketball and baseball teams that went to state.

The football team finished with a record of 11-1, losing to eventual state champion Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the Class 4A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. The basketball team finished third in the Class 3A state tournament and had a 28-4 record. The baseball team went 20-7; Ryan had two hits in the third-place game and pitched two innings in relief.

VanMoer not only collected state tournament medals, he made lasting impressions on his teammates and coaches.

“There’s not a better kid out there than Ryan VanMoer,” said Tigers baseball coach Chace Pollock. “And I really mean that. He’s an unbelievable kid, in the classroom, out on the baseball field, football field, wherever it is. He’s a hard worker and a great kid.”

Ryan joined Marshall’s clay target shooting team as a junior. He said he usually was able to get to the shooting range one day a week after baseball practice. The state championship competition will be held next Saturday at Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake.

“One of the things I respect so much about Ryan is that he’s not only a three-sport athlete and a contributor in all three sports, he’s also in our marching band, he’s a phenomenal drummer,” said Marshall activities director Bruce Remme. “He does it all and he gets it done in the classroom, too. He’s a super leader. We feel really fortunate to have a kid like Ryan VanMoer in our programs.”

Ryan came through in a crucial spot against Waconia on Friday, stepping into the batter’s box with two outs, no one on base and the Tigers trailing 4-3 in the top of the seventh inning. He belted a triple. Dylan Criquet-Danielson reached on an error (VanMoer scored) and Logan Tomasek singled. Hess hit a two-run triple to put Marshall ahead 6-4 before the inning ended. In the bottom of the seventh, Waconia won the game on a walk, a hit-by-pitch and consecutive singles by Jacob Hendricks, Dillon Whittaker and Smith.

Despite Friday’s disappointment, Ryan was grateful for all he has been able to experience.

“It’s something special,” he said. “It’s all I could ask for in my senior year. I know there are two other guys that have been part of this, too. I’ve had great coaching, great teammates through it all. It’s really special.”

Ryan will attend Concordia College in Moorhead, where he will study biology and play football and baseball.

He’ll be a full-time college student, participating in two sports. But what will he do with all that free time?

Friday’s Baseball State Semifinals

Class 1A

Parkers Prairie 8, Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove 3
Legacy Christian 7, Wabasha-Kellogg 5

Class 2A
Minnehaha Academy 8, Maple Lake 3
Pierz 1, Duluth Marshall 0

Class 3A
Waconia 7, Marshall 6
Hibbing 8, Alexandria 7

Class 4A
Eden Prairie 14, Lakeville North 0
Forest Lake 9, Woodbury 1

Baseball State Championship Games
Monday at Target Field

1A/ Parkers Prairie vs. Legacy Christian, 10 a.m.
2A/ Minnehaha Academy vs. Pierz, 1 p.m.
3A/ Waconia vs. Hibbing, 4 p.m.
4A/ Eden Prairie vs. Forest Lake, 7 p.m.

Lacrosse State Championship Games
Saturday at Chanhassen High School

Girls/ Blake vs. Eden Prairie, 3:30 p.m.
Boys/ Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. Eagan, 6 p.m.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 792
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 11,941
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
The Little Guy Gets The Big Hits When It Counts 6/15/2017
JORDAN – The meat of the batting order for the baseball team from Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove must scare the dickens out of opposing pitchers, even before they step in the batter’s box. No 3 hitter Cole Pankonin, who stands stands 6 feet tall and weighs 230 pounds, is followed by Corey Maras (6-2, 235) and Trevor Pederson (6-5, 300). All are seniors.

The star for the Falcons, however, in Thursday’s Class 1A state quarterfinal was someone younger and smaller than those guys. Sophomore left fielder Austin Irlbeck, all 5-10 and 155 pounds, had three hits and drove in three runs as the Falcons defeated Fosston 11-1 in six innings.

Irlbeck, the only non-senior in the batting order, singled, doubled and hit a home run over the right-field fence at the Mini Met. It was his team’s second home run of the season; Pankonin hit the first earlier in the year.

“Austin is a special player,” said Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove
coach Derrick Jenniges. “He’s a good contact player, he can run the bases really well, he’s a good bunter, so he gives us lots of options. Especially at the top of the order, he gives a little protection for those big swingers behind him.”

The day’s biggest swing came from Irlbeck in the second inning when his solo homer gave the Falcons a 3-0 lead. He belted a two-run double in the third and singled in the fifth. Pankonin also had three hits, while Maras, Evan Blomgren and Mitchell Willhite had two each. Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove finished with 13 hits.

The last time a baseball team from any of those southern Minnesota communities went to state was in the 1940s; Westbrook made the trip in 1947 and 1949. Things are different now, with several communities and two schools coming together.

Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove will meet Parkers Prairie in Friday’s semifinals at noon Friday in Jordan. The winner will play for the state title Monday at Target Field.

“This is really big,” Irlbeck said. “We come from a small town and we want to try to help each other out the best we can, do it for the town, do it for our school, do it for our fans.”

As he said those words, one of Austin’s teammates handed him a plastic turkey, a good-luck charm which he was happy to explain…

“This is Tom the Turkey. He’s been with us since last year when we had a little run in the playoffs. He’s stuck ever since.”

The Goal: Return To Target Field

Parkers Prairie knows what it’s like to play at the home of the Minnesota Twins. The Panthers were the 1A runners-up last year, and they moved one step closer to a return visit to Target Field with an 8-0 win over Pillager in Thursday’s 1A quarterfinals.

Parkers Prairie and Pillager are both in the Park Region Conference, and the Panthers defeated Pillager twice during the regular season.

“You come down here and you think you’ll see different teams, and then you see a conference opponent,” said Panthers coach Derek Denny. “There were no secrets; we knew them, they knew us. It was about the players; let the boys come out and just play the game. We’re happy. Very happy.”

Parkers Prairie’s Levi Arnold improved his pitching record to 11-0 with the victory. He had a no-hitter through five innings and gave up two singles in the final two innings, throwing a fastball, curveball and knuckleball.

A year ago the Panthers lost in the championship game to Springfield 4-2 in 11 innings. It was the second-longest championship game in MSHSL baseball history, and the Panthers would love to get back.

“We were one out away (from winning last year),” Arnold said. “We want to make it back. We don’t need to win it, but that would be really nice.”

State Baseball Quarterfinals

Class 1A

Parkers Prairie 8, Pillager 0
Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove 11, Fosston 1
Legacy Christian 9, Ely 4
Wabasha-Kellogg 2, Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman 2

Class 2A

Minnehaha Academy 10, Warroad 5
Maple Lake 11, Rochester Lourdes 1
Duluth Marshall 8, Belle Plaine 4
Pierz 6, New London-Spicer 2

Class 3A
Waconia 2, Mahtomedi 1 (9)
Marshall 3, Red Wing 1
Hibbing 9, St. Cloud Tech 2
Alexandria 7, St. Thomas Academy 2

Class 4A
Eden Prairie 6, Wayzata 1
Lakeville North 8, Burnsville 1
Forest Lake 6, Maple Grove 5
Woodbury 4, Champlin Park 1

Boys Lacrosse State Semifinals
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 6, Wayzata 5
Eagan 12, Mahtomedi 11 (OT)

Girls Lacrosse State Semifinals
Blake 10, Prior Lake 9
Eden Prairie 19, Farmington 3

Lacrosse State Championship Games
Saturday at Chanhassen High School

Girls at 3:30 p.m.
Blake vs, Eden Prairie

Boys at 6 p.m.
Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. Eagan

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 788
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 11,891
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Four Days, Two State Tournaments, One Talented Athlete6/14/2017
BECKER -- Wabasha-Kellogg’s Liam Blaschko brought all his essential equipment to the Class 1A state golf tournament, which was held here Tuesday and Wednesday at Pebble Creek Golf Course. Liam brought his clubs, his shoes, his balls and tees … and his baseball gear, too.

This is a very big week for the senior, who is playing in two state tournaments. After wrapping up the golf tournament Wednesday, he headed to Jordan to meet his baseball teammates. The Falcons will face Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A tournament on Thursday at the Mini Met in Jordan.

If they win Thursday they will play in the state semifinals Friday in Jordan for the chance to play in the state championship game Monday at Target Field. If they lose Thursday, they will play in the consolation bracket Friday in Chaska.

All in all, Liam (pictured) is experiencing a real rarity.

“I’m feeling pretty good about it,” he said of his two rounds at state golf. He shot an 84 Tuesday and an 83 Wednesday, finishing in a tie for 23rd in the 88-player field.

Liam is the Falcons’ top pitcher with an 8-2 record and 98 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings. He also plays catcher and his batting average of .313 ranks No. 4 on the team behind Cooper Holtorf (.442), Jackson Gosse (.377) and Chase Holtorf (.333).

“He’s really taken it in a relaxed fashion,” Falcons golf coach Donny Killeen said of Liam’s golf season. “He said baseball’s a little more stressful for him. When he’s pitching there are eight other guys out there. Here, he said, ‘It’s me. If I mess up it’s my own fault.’ ”

Liam’s brother Fletcher played at the state golf tournament three times, placing sixth as a senior in 2013. The last time Wabasha-Kellogg qualified for the state baseball tournament was when Liam was in eighth grade.

Liam left home Monday for the state golf tournament. The Falcons’ baseball team departed for Jordan on Wednesday morning and Liam met them later in the day. After finishing on the golf course each day, he played catch with his father Chris and Killeen.

“There is stress in baseball,” he said. “In golf you just go out and have fun.”

Liam’s playing partners Wednesday were Springfield freshman Mason Kretsch, Heritage Christian junior Ian Johnson and Minneota freshman Nolan Boerboom. None of them knew Liam would be playing in another state tournament a day later; he didn’t mention it.

Wabasha-Kellogg allows athletes to play two sports simultaneously, but they must designate their top sport. Liam chose baseball, which meant he was on hand for baseball practices and games while working on his golf game when he found time.

As his sister Rowan put it, seeing her little brother at the state golf tournament was “the icing on the cake.”

In the midst of a very busy spring, Liam also performed in the school musical, “The Music Man.”

He has simple advice for others who might be considering a similar path: “Don’t be afraid to fill your schedule.”

State Golf Results


Class 1A:
Mahnomen/Waubun won the team title and Blooming Prairie's Tommy Braaten captured the individual championship.

Class 2A: Blake won the team crown and Red Wing's Cecil Belisle won the individual championship.

Class 3A: The team title went to Wayzata, as did the individual crown to the Trojans’ Van Holmgren.


Class 1A:
BOLD (pictured) won the team state championship and Springfield's Callie Wersal captured the individual championship.

Class 2A: Detroit Lakes took home the team title and Anni Heck of Visitation repeated as individual champ.

Class 3A: The team title went to Edina, and the individual title was shared by Edina's Joanna Kim and Red Wing's Sophia Yeomans.

Tournament Tidbits

--The Springfield girls golf team -- which placed third in Class 1A -- is coached by Dillon Schultz, who was the 2009 Class 1A boys champion for Springfield/Comfrey.

--After a snapping turtle was spotted during the golf tournament in Becker, one of the course marshalls made the following statement on his walkie-talkie. “She can move her ball from there because of the Dangerous Animal rule.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 780
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 11,843
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
A Very Busy Tuesday Is Underway6/13/2017
The busiest stretch of the spring season is underway with state tournaments in three sports at 10 sites taking place this week. Tuesday was the opening day of the golf and lacrosse state tournaments, and baseball will begin Thursday.

Here’s what’s happening today (updates to come)…

Boys lacrosse state quarterfinals at Chanhassen
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 17, Anoka 4
Wayzata vs. Eden Prairie
Prior Lake vs. Mahtomedi
Lakeville North vs. Eagan

Girls lacrosse state quarterfinals at Minnetonka
Cretin-Derham Hall vs. Blake
Maple Grove vs. Prior Lake
Stillwater vs. Farmington
Blaine vs. Eden Prairie

Class 1A State Golf
Ridges at Sand Creek, Jordan

Class 2A State Golf
Pebble Creek, Becker

Class 3A State Golf
Bunker Hills, Coon Rapids

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 764
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 11,698
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn