John's Journal
St. Agnes Claims Class 1A Baseball Title6/18/2012
The Aggies of St. Agnes in St. Paul finished off an impressive Class 1A state tournament run today at Target Field, defeating Lac qui Parle Valley 6-0 in the title game at Target Field.

The Aggies did not give up a run in the tournament, defeating New York Mills 1-0 and Blackduck 7-0 in the previous two rounds.

St. Agnes finished the season with a record of 23-6 and the Eagles finished at 18-10.

The rest of today's schedule looks like this...

Class 2A at 3 p.m.: Holy Family (24-4) vs. St. Cloud Cathedral (24-5)

Class 3A at 6 p.m.: Bemidji (25-2) vs. Eastview (22-4)
A Championship Day To Remember At Target Field6/18/2012
Bart Hill has been a high school baseball coach for 17 years but he has never witnessed anything like this season, on the field as well as off. His Lac qui Parle Valley Eagles finished 2012 in spectacular fashion with an appearance in the Class 1A state championship game Monday at Target Field.

To begin with, the Eagles lost 12 seniors – and seven starters – to graduation off last year’s 16-7 team, which reached the Section 3 finals. This season began with a young roster, five losses in the first eight games, a whole bunch of lineup changes and an injury to one of the top pitchers.

“No one ever, ever imagined this,” Hill said after the Eagles fell to St. Agnes 6-0 Monday. “Most of these guys had never been in a varsity uniform before. We had a lot of goofy things happen along the way. We believe we had some divine intervention along the way.”

The 2012 season was a testament to sticking together and growing together. And making a long postseason run electrified the communities and school district, which is headquartered in Madison. It’s the biggest thing since the boys basketball team went to state in 1992.

“We’ve never had this opportunity,” Hill (pictured) said. “And the support people had … as a coach, all the alumni that have been calling me. You just can’t believe it. Small towns get excited about these things. All the cars have banners in them, all the stores have signs in them. It’s pretty special.”

The Eagles' iron horse Monday was 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior Brandon Bornhorst, who threw 141 pitches (93 strikes).

“He probably could have thrown 180,” the coach said. “I asked him, ‘Do you want to come out?’ He said, ‘Absolutely not.’ He’s got nine wins, he’s got half of our wins this year. He was good enough to win, we just didn’t have enough defense behind him.”

True, the Eagles (18-10) committed three errors in the first inning, helping St. Agnes (23-6) score two runs. They finished with five errors.

“Up until this game we didn’t even make five errors total in the playoffs,” Hill said. “I think maybe the nerves got to them a little on the big stage, but what a thrill.”

Way back when Lac qui Parle Valley was scuffling along with a record of 6-7, Hill and the team captains were trying to find a formula to turn things around. Motivation was elusive, but the coach remembered something he had done years ago: let the players become his hair stylists. The result was a Mohawk haircut.

“I had done it once a long, long, long time ago and I said, ‘I’m not that stupid to ever make that bet again.’ I said, ‘You get us to the state tournament, then you can.’ When you’re 6 and 7, nobody’s going to a state tournament. It was a very safe bet at the time.”

TOURNEY TIDBITS

--In Holy Family’s 5-0 Class 2A championship victory over St. Cloud Cathedral, Fire pitcher Kasey Ralston (pictured) gave up only two hits, struck out seven and walked none in a dominating performance. Like St. Agnes in Class 1A, Holy Family did not allow a run in the state tournament.

“It’s the biggest thing in my baseball career by far,” said the senior. “At the beginning of the season we knew we were going to be good, but we didn’t expect to be this good. We got hot in the end when we needed to, and it’s pretty awesome.”

Holy Family coach Bryan DeLorenzo was an assistant coach on the school’s first state championship team, the 2007 boys basketball squad that won the Class 2A title.

“I remember thinking it would be nice to get one myself in baseball,” he said.

DeLorenzo is in his ninth year as a head baseball coach, which isn’t much compared to the 42-year career of Cathedral coach Bob Karn. Karn owns seven state titles in coaching more than 900 games.

“It’s an honor to be on the same field as him,” DeLorenzo said, “and a school with that much tradition that’s been around a lot longer than Holy Family.”

Holy Family opened in 2000; St. Cloud Cathedral has been around since 1902.

--When Eastview defeated Bemidji 1-0 in the Class 3A championship game, it completed a historic day. For the first time since 1984 (when baseball was a two-class sport), all the championship games were shutouts. The tournament was expanded to three classes in 2000.

--Lac qui Parle Valley’s Hill was wrapping up pregame drills in a traditional way, using his skills with a fungo to hit a high foul ball for catcher Preston Kraft to catch. The coach misfired just a bit, sending the ball into the stands behind the Eagles dugout. Cries of “Heads up!” had people preparing to be conked on the head, but the ball fell safely into the seats.

“Hey, it’s a major league park,” a smiling Hill hollered to the fans. “You’ve gotta be ready for anything!”

--Twins general manager Terry Ryan is never afraid to help out. After a foul ball landed in the unoccupied Legends Club seats in front of the press box, Ryan helped MSHSL media steward Steve Anderson locate the ball.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

Class 1A: Wes Snyder, Ely; Adam Snelgrove, New York Mills; Trey Volk, Blackduck; Austin Host, Browerville; Brandon Bornhorst, Ben Morken, Colby Siegert, Brandon Hill, Lac qui Parle Valley; Charlie Turch, Jack Fossand, Ryan Hernandez, Evan Morehead, St. Agnes.

Class 2A: Tyler Boyle-Hoban, Cannon Falls; Tyler Wolfe, Delano; Spencer Chirpich, Fairmont; Jake Lewis, Ian Scherber, Proctor; Eric Pelant, Brian Minks, Michael Kerber, St. Cloud Cathedral; Kasey Ralston, Keller Knoll, Joe Salz, Conner Riddle, Holy Family.

Class 3A: Zach Garner, Red Wing; Luc Henke, Hill-Murray; Jake Bischoff, Grand Rapids; Cameron Mingo, Eden Prairie; Evan DeCovich, A.J. Stockwell, Chris Narum, Quinn Trusty, Eastview; Ryan Hirt, Collin Leif, Mason Bellew, Mitch Hendricks, Bemidji.

--To see photo galleries from each championship game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 6 for the day, 37 for the spring tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 689
*Miles John has driven: 8,761
(*During the 2011-12 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Target Field, Here We Are!6/16/2012
The lineup of state championship baseball games has begun at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. While the Twins have today off before beginning a six-game interleague road trip to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, high school teams have taken over the ballpark.

Tickets are good for all three games. Prices are only $10 for adults and $7 for students.

Here's the schedule...

Class 1A at noon: Lac qui Parle Valley (18-9) vs. St. Agnes (22-6)

Class 2A at 3 p.m.: Holy Family (24-4) vs. St. Cloud Cathedral (24-5)

Class 3A at 6 p.m.: Bemidji (25-2) vs. Eastview (22-4)
A Blown Knee, A House Fire … And A Trip To The State Tourney6/15/2012
ST. CLOUD – Braxton Lindow, senior right fielder for the Cannon Falls baseball team, beamed when I asked him about the experience of playing in the Class 2A state tournament this week.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s exactly what you want out of your senior year.”

That’s a pretty good attitude to have, especially for a young man who has seen his share of heartache since his senior year began. Between games in the consolation bracket Friday, I posed this question to Braxton: What’s worse? Blowing out a knee or watching your house burn to the ground?

His answer was as honest as they come: “I have to put them both at the same level.”

The knee went bye-bye last Oct. 7 during a football game at Rochester Lourdes. Braxton was running downfield on punt coverage when his left knee exploded. The first person to check on him was his father Bucky, the football defensive coordinator and head baseball coach.

“The trainer looked at me and said, ‘ACL,’ ” Bucky told me. “That hits you right away.”

Braxton had surgery later in October, missed the entire basketball season and was finally cleared to play baseball in late April. He missed the first few games of the baseball season and now wears a brace on the knee. His baseball career will continue at St. Olaf College.

This week’s trip to state was the second in school history and the first since 1997. The Bombers lost to Holy Family 8-0 in Thursday’s state quarterfinals, then defeated Roseau 5-0 Friday in the consolation bracket before falling to Delano 6-1.

Ending the season with a trip to state was another step in moving past what has happened. Braxton was nearly asleep on an evening in January when he heard people running through the house … which was on fire. Bucky, his wife Wanda and their three teenage sons escaped safely but the house was a total loss.

“It was kind of shocking to see fire come through your door, having your family standing in the front yard with the garage doors flying off, and the firemen rushing into your house,” Bucky said.

“The coolest thing about it is that I have connections with a lot of the firemen through coaching. Either I coached them or their sons or their nephews or something. The care that they had for our house was incredible. They said the chief might have been a little frustrated with them because they were hauling things out of there that they normally wouldn’t do during a fire. It was really cool.”

The Lindows found immediate shelter in the home of neighbors who made their house available while they were in California. After three weeks, the Lindows found a home to rent. A new house is being built on the site of the fire, and if things go well the family will move in around the time school starts in the fall.

“Watching the new house go up has been fun,” Braxton said. “We get to see what the whole process is like.”

Through it all – Braxton’s knee injury and then the devastating fire – the Lindows have been supported by the people of Cannon Falls.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Bucky said. “The love and the support in every possible way has just been unbelievable. We feel so fortunate to live in that town and to be a part of that whole community. We’re not surprised by it, but we’re humbled.

“It makes you wish that every time somebody went through a tragedy, you would have helped. And hopefully it’s something we can learn from, so in the future when anything happens we can be helpful.”

--THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP baseball games are set after teams in all three classes survived major weather-related schedule changes on Thursday. The semifinals were completed Friday, and here is what’s next …

Monday at Target Field

Class 1A at noon: Lac qui Parle Valley (18-9) vs. St. Agnes (22-6)

Class 2A at 3 p.m.: Holy Family (24-4) vs. St. Cloud Cathedral (24-5)

Class 3A at 6 p.m.: Bemidji (25-2) vs. Eastview (22-4)

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 31 for the spring tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 683
*Miles John has driven: 8,761

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
After A Very Lengthy Delay, Murray County Central Makes Golf History 6/13/2012
BECKER – The boys golf team from Murray County Central High School in Slayton came within a whisker of taking home a trophy and third-place medals Wednesday at the Class 1A state tournament. The Rebels finished fourth, however, one stroke behind Dawson-Boyd.

One stroke? That’s a single putt that lipped out of the cup instead of falling in. One putt that broke this way instead of that way.

One stroke? Murray County Central had a total team score of 668 strokes. Dawson-Boyd had 667. That was the difference between a trophy in the case and medals around their necks.

As with most small schools, trips to state tournaments are not a regular occurrence; the Murray County Central football team went to state in 2000 and the girls golf team did so in 2002. But nobody -- and I mean nobody -- wearing Rebels colors was down in the dumps about the razor-thin margin Wednesday at Pebble Creek Golf Club.

Here’s the deal: The Rebels had not even fielded a boys golf team between 1976 and 2012, according to coach Kim Delong. That’s 36 years with a ZERO chance of taking home a trophy and medals, so just playing in this week’s two-day state tournament was almost as good as winning the the whole thing.

“We didn’t really have any expectations,” said freshman Adam Christensen, one of five underclassmen on the six-man tournament roster. “We just went out there to have fun and do our best. We thought we were pretty good, though.”

The boys who played at state – senior Devin Ryan, juniors Ben Loosbrock, Devin Erickson and Cole Degreeff and freshmen Christensen and Grant Everson (pictured) – had as much fun as anybody.

“It’s been pretty awesome because I’m not used to being on a team that wins,” Degreeff said. “And we don’t lose for the most part. The pressure feels good; it’s a good kind of pressure. And I like the atmosphere around here. The people are nice, the course is nice and it was just a great couple of days.”

Murray County Central has fielded a girls golf team all these years. The boys team was resurrected when people realized that there were enough players to do so, with a booster club helping with funds and the school board approving the move.

“For several years we’ve had student-athletes who are out golfing and some of their parents are golfers, and we had enough interest,” said Delong, who coaches the boys and girls golf teams. “The majority of these kids are out there every day all summer.”

The Rebels’ first big splash this season came when they won the Red Rock Conference championship by 11 strokes. They kept winning, qualifying for state with a five-shot victory in the Section 3 tournament.

“I think conference kind of justified how good we were,” Ryan said. “I think that’s when we knew we had a good chance to go pretty far.”

Eight boys played on the team this spring and Delong thinks that number could easily be doubled in 2013. And with everybody except Ryan returning next season, the Rebels might want to think about making room for a new trophy.

“I’m a senior this year so it’s been amazing for me,” Ryan said. “I’ve never made it to state in anything so it’s just great to be here.”

--In the Class 1A tournament, Lewiston-Altura repeated as the girls team champion and Legacy Christian Academy senior Rachel Gray won the individual championship. On the boys side, Legacy Christian Academy won the team title and Cordell Weber of Martin County West was the individual champ.

--In Class 2A girls, Detroit Lakes took the team title and Detroit Lakes eighth-grader Kate Smith won the individual championship. Detroit Lakes also won the boys team championship and Hermantown's Taylor Sundbom won the individual title.

--And in 3A, New Prague won the girls title and Cretin-Derham Hall's Celia Kuenster was the individual champ. Moorhead captured the 3A team championship and the individual title was shared by Chaska's Jon Dutoit and Moorhead's Ben Welle.

--The best-dressed fans at the 1A tournament were a trio from Russell-Tyler-Ruthton. Andrew Bakker, Hudson Van Drunen and Ryan O'Toole all wore SpongeBob SquarePants t-shirts, sunglasses and matching hats.

--Culinary highlight of the day: A freshly grilled, world-class cheeseburger at Pebble Creek.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 21 for the spring tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 675
*Miles John has driven: 8,571

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn