NORTH MANKATO -- In the midst of tournament mania -- as every team and every athlete and every fan is hoping and dreaming to celebrate glory in the form of a gold medal -- a very special scene took place Friday afternoon during the state softball tournament at Caswell Park.
The team was the Maple Grove Crimson, who a few minutes earlier had lost a heartbreaking contest to Lakeville South in the Class 3A state championship game. The Crimson were great sports, shaking hands with and congratulating the South Cougars, accepting their second-place medals and smiling as they held up the second-place trophy.
But you just know that losing had to sting. The Crimson had experienced a dream season, bringing a record of 22-3 into Friday’s game and taking a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. That’s when South scored twice to take a 3-2 lead that held up the rest of the game. The Crimson had their chances in the bottom of the seventh, getting runners to second and third with two outs before the game ended with a strikeout.
Heartbreak? Well, sure. But when coach Jim Koltes spoke to his players afterward, as they sat quietly on the outfield grass, his message was one of congratulations and pride. Every word, every syllable was absolutely and totally positive.
“You didn’t quit,” the coach said. “You played to the end and you gave us a chance to win the game. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but I’m proud of you and I’ll be proud of you forever.”
Then he asked for “put ups” … meaning the opposite of putdowns. The assistant coaches and players took turns, raising their hands and offering positive comments on specific things that teammates had done during the game; running out groundballs and beating the throws to first base, making tough fielding plays, working hard in the dugout and keeping the energy up.
“We out-cheered them, that’s for sure,” Koltes said with a smile. And as the Crimson posed with their second-place trophy, everyone grinned. What a great way to end a great season.
--Kasson-Mantorville finished the year as the only undefeated team in the state, defeating LeSueur-Henderson 3-0 in the Class 2A title game. As usual, KoMets junior pitcher Maddie Damon was dominant in giving up only one hit, a bunt single to the first batter she faced, Veronica Sinell. Damon struck out 11 (as she did in the two previous games at state) and finished the season with a state-record 1,260 career strikeouts.
Here’s what might be the most amazing statistic of the entire softball season: the KoMets (28-0) won by shutout 20 times, gave up one run in seven games and allowed two runs only once, in a 4-2 win over Zumbrota-Mazeppa on May 6. They gave up nine total runs, only five of them earned runs.
--New Ulm Cathedral took home the Class 1A state title with a 3-1 win over New Life Academy in a matchup of two powerful small-school programs.
Cathedral has now played in seven championship games and won all seven, with previous crowns coming in 1993, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2005 and 2007. New Life won state titles in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 while finishing second in 2007 and 2013.
The state track and field championships began Friday at Hamline University in St. Paul, and will conclude Saturday. Most of Friday’s events were prelims, but finals in half of the field events were held as well as the 3,200-meter races.
On the track, Stillwater sophomore Eli Krahn made headlines by winning the Class 2A boys 3,200. A year ago he won the 1,600 at state.
--In a very competitive 2A girls 3,200, Emily Castanias of Chanhassen was the winner, followed by Shaelyn Sorensen of Tartan in second. The next to finish were sisters Bethany and Megan Hasz of Alexandria.
--Minnetonka’s Mia Barron repeated as the 2A girls long jump champion, leaping 19 feet, 1½ inches. She owns the state of 19-10.
--Terrance Bowers of Hopkins repeated as the 2A boys triple jump champion.
--New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva senior Carlie Wagner – a basketball star who has signed with the University of Minnesota – won her second 1A high jump title in three years.
--Kasson-Mantorville’s softball victory wasn’t the only title for the KoMets on Friday. Junior Taylor Wiebke won the girls high jump, leaping 5-9. She set the state record of 5-11 earlier this spring.
--Blaine junior Alexandra Williams, who set the girls 100-meter hurdles state record of 14.21 in her section meet, led Friday’s state prelims in 14.22.
--Blake junior Charlie Adams repeated as the Class singles state champ, defeating Ty Misialek of East Grand Forks 6-1, 6-0 in the finals.
--Nick Beaty of Wayzata won the 2A singles title with a 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-2 win over Toby Boyer of Forest Lake.
--The 1A doubles crown went to Ben Ingbar and Taylor Parr of Blake, who defeated Jake Duxbury and Austin Wong of Breck 6-2, 6-4.
--In 2A doubles, Charlie Adkins and Rory Calabria of Maple Grove defeated Anthony Rosa and Carter Mason of Eden Prairie 6-1, 6-3 in the title match.
--To see photos from some of Friday's events (including a spectacular photo gallery from state track by Minnesota Prep Photo), go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
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