John's Journal
Baseball Tripleheader Has Been Moved Back 6/20/2011
Attention baseball fans ...

The state championship baseball tripleheader scheduled for Tuesday at Target Field has been postponed until Wednesday. Because of weather concerns, the MSHSL wanted to avoid having teams travel to Target Field with no guarantee of games being played.

If weather also becomes an issue on Wednesday, the games could be played on Thursday. A big Thank You goes to the Twins for making Target Field available for three days.

The best way to stay on top of this type of breaking news is via Twitter and Facebook.
A Great Day For Baseball … Next Stop: Target Field6/17/2011
I’ve felt like a statewide courier this week, driving to Coon Rapids, Becker, Jordan and St. Cloud on consecutive days for state tournaments. The first three stops were for golf and Friday’s journey took me to St. Cloud for the state semifinals in the Class 2A baseball tournament.

Friday was a major day for Minnesota high school baseball, with the six contestants being determined for Tuesday’s state championship games at Target Field. Here is the lineup for the big day:

Class 1A at noon: Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial (25-3) vs. Eden Valley-Watkins (22-2).

Class 2A at 3 p.m.: St. Cloud Cathedral (23-3) vs. LaCrescent (25-3, pictured at right).

Class 3A at 6p.m.: Burnsville (23-3) vs. Maple Grove (26-1).

Target Field made its debut as the site of the title games a year ago, and Eden Valley-Watkins is the only defending champion to return. Burnsville also played there last year, losing to Eden Prairie in the title game.

For all the teams, Tuesday will be a thrilling day all around.

Cathedral coach Bob Karn has been on the job for 41 years and has a career record of 631-267. Tuesday’s championship game will be his first time coaching at Target Field, and he is thrilled with everything that has taken place this season.

“What a joy as you get older to be able to live with 17- and 18-year-olds doing something that's just passionately fun,” he said. “It helps me to be young.”

As for the impact of championship games at Target Field? “I can't even begin to measure how excited the kids are to think of that as a possibility,” he said. “It's an incredible opportunity for them and it just changes the dimension of everything. It's just a thrill.”

It will indeed be a great day for baseball on Tuesday. If you watch the Twins on TV and envy those people sitting in the big, comfortable, expensive seats right behind home plate, here’s your chance to do the same for just a few dollars. Tickets on Tuesday are only $10 for adults and $7 for students.

TRIVIA QUESTION

This quiz centers on a father-son coaching combination, Dean and Troy Urdahl (pictured). Here are some facts to consider:

--Under Troy Urdahl, St. Anthony Village won Class 2A baseball state titles in 2006 and 2008. This year, the Huskies fell to St. Cloud Cathedral in Thursday's state quarterfinals, then lost to Proctor in the consolation bracket Friday. Troy has coached the Huskies for nine years.

--Dean Urdahl coached cross-country at New London-Spicer for 29 years before retiring from coaching, taking 18 teams to state. His girls teams won Class A championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Here’s the question: Is there another father-son coaching combination that has won five state titles ... in two different sports ... coaching both boys and girls? Send your answer to me via email (address is at the top of John’s Journal).

SOFT DRINK UPDATE

After wandering aimlessly through the proverbial desert from golf course to golf course to golf course this week and finding not one available Diet Coke, my reward awaited me in St. Cloud on Friday. My close personal friend Emmett Keenan, the St. Cloud Cathedral athletic director and a site manager for the 2A baseball tournament, took exceptionally good care of me.

A cooler in the tournament headquarters was stocked with several types of refreshments, including enough Diet Coke to swim in. It was a grand way to end a busy, fun week.

See you at Target Field!

--Diet Coke Count: Four

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 815
*Miles John has driven: 10,936

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
A Change At The Top and A Great Day For An Ace6/16/2011
Hey! No rain! What a concept! Thursday was one of those days we all dream about when the winter winds are whipping across our state. I spent the day at the Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan, completing my three-day tour of the state golf tournaments.

Ridges was the site of the Class 2A tournament, and there were two major headlines from the event: Red Wing ended a three-year run as girls state runner-up with a convincing victory and a young man from Staples-Motley got a hole-in-one. (Oh, there was also a stupidity-induced technology issue.) Let’s begin with the Red Wing girls …

A NEW DAY DAWNS

Minnewaska has been the queen of girls golf in Minnesota, winning a state-record five consecutive championships through last season. A year ago, Minnewaska edged Red Wing by one stroke for the team title. When nine-hole scores started coming in Thursday (the second day of the two-day tournament), it became clear that the Wingers were finally going to take home gold medals.

They finished 17 shots ahead of second-place Detroit Lakes, and Minnewaska was another 12 strokes behind the Lakers in third place. After receiving their medals and team trophy and posing for photos, the Wingers did what has become a Ridges tradition: they jumped into a small pond that borders the clubhouse.

Red Wing’s success throughout the season against the best 2A and 3A teams in the state is reason for discussing whether the Wingers are the best girls team in the state regardless of class. They beat Wayzata in two of three meetings and defeated Stillwater both times they met; Wayzata and Stillwater tied for the 3A state title on Wednesday at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids. Red Wing also outscored Minnewaska in two out of three regular-season tournaments and outshot Detroit Lakes in two tournaments.

The Wingers will move to Class 3A next season, setting up what should be an interesting and competitive season.

“I’m not saying we would have beaten Wayzata up there, but they wouldn’t have beat us today,” said Red Wing coach Mark Herzog. “We played really good today.”

The Wingers had a 330 team total on the first day and trailed Detroit Lakes by one shot. But their 311 team score Thursday blew away the competition. Junior Marisa Toivonen finished fourth among the individuals with a 158 total, and junior Katie Kesti, Drake-bound senior Danielle Brooks and senior Nikki Pasch also were in the top 10.

“I knew last year when we left here that we could be one of the top teams in both classes,” Herzog said. “I thought we were good enough to beat anybody this year, and we beat all the teams this year. You want to play good when it counts, and we played good today, really good.”

THE ACE FROM STAPLES-MOTLEY

Michael Strain's second career hole-in-one will be etched a little bit deeper into his memory than the first. The junior from Staples-Motley had already recorded an ace on his home course,The Vintage at Staples, but getting one in the state tournament is going to be awfully hard to top.

"I'll remember this forever," Strain (left) said of his ace on the 154-yard 17th hole Thursday in Jordan. "The second-to-last hole in the state tournament on the last day? It's go big or go home, and I went big."

Strain had chipped in on the 16th hole, and his back-nine score of 33 gave him a 72 for the day and a 147 total. That gave him a share of seventh place with Shattuck-St. Mary's sophomore Anthony Brodeur, son of NHL goaltender Martin Brodeur.

Michael is a left-handed golfer, which worked to his advantage on No. 17. "I hit a 9-iron and I was about 150 yards out," he said. "It was setting up really good for me because it was a back-right pin and the tee was on the left and I play a big hook as a lefty. It just kind of went in the hole. It bounced once."

TECHNOLOGY ISSUES

Let me start this segment of today's essay with an admission: I have bad hands. On Wednesday, I dropped my camera on my laptop and the computer did not like it one bit. The screen went all kablooey on me, rendering the laptop useless. My wife, as it happens, had brought home a new iPad 2 earlier this week, so her hubby convinced her to let him take it for a test run in Jordan. She was smart enough to buy a keyboard for her iPad, and our 20-year-old daughter showed her butter-fingered fathered how to find and use a program on which John's Journal could be constructed.

It worked like a dream, too. It was massively easy to spin around on the internet to Twitter and Facebook and the MSHSL website, etc., and stay updated on all the state quarterfinal baseball games that were played Thursday. And if you are reading this, my wife might not get her iPad back for a while...

--Diet Coke Count: Zero for the third day in a row. Again, Thursday's golf venue offered an alternate soft drink. I will be in St. Cloud for the Class 2A state baseball semifinals Friday, and here's hoping my Diet Coke habit will resume at Dick Putz Field.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 811
*Miles John has driven: 10,810

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
One Rookie Player, One Veteran Coach, Two Wonderful Stories6/15/2011
Wednesday began with rain on the three golf courses that are being used for state tournaments this week. In the afternoon the sky cleared and it looked like nothing but sunshine for the rest of the day. And then storm clouds gathered for muster on the western horizon and attacked in force.

The Class 3A tournament, which began Tuesday at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids, was played to completion for the boys and the girls field. Rogers and Wayzata shared the 3A boys team title and Forest Lake’s Max Kelly was the individual champion. On the girls side, the team from Wayzata took home gold and the individual title was shared by Cretin-Derham Hall's Celia Kuenster and Stillwater's Cassie Diggs.

Meanwhile, the Class 2A tourney in Jordan and the 1A event in Becker began their scheduled two-day run Wednesday. I spent the day in Becker in my usual manner: working on stories that go beyond the normal everyday “game” stories. And boy did I land on two great stories. Some of my many tipsters around the state had pointed me in the right direction; in fact, more than one tipster had told me about each of these stories.

THE ROOKIE

Let’s start with Windom senior Jessy Grove. For most of his senior year he was known as the kid with the concussions. He suffered the first one in the fourth game of the football season, returned for basketball and had concussion number two. Doctors said no more contact sports, so Jessy had to give up on playing baseball – his favorite sport – this spring.

He plays a lot of golf each summer, so that’s the team he went to. “I knew I didn’t want to end my high school career by sitting on the bench,” he told me. But he wasn’t even given clearance to play golf until well after the season had started.

Suffering from severe headaches, he missed 43 days of school after the second concussion. After seeing a series of doctors, he was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. Jessy became a spokesperson for concussion awareness and safety, testifying before the House Education Reform Committee at the State Capitol in St. Paul.

So to see him on the course at Pebble Creek in Becker, representing his school this week … well, it’s darn near miraculous.

“This is his first year … first half a year, I should say,” said Windom coach Dave Eyberg (pictured above with Jessy). “He didn’t get cleared for anything except golf, and that wasn’t until about a month and a half ago. So it’s quite a story.”

Indeed it is, especially the end of the story. That’s the 1A state tournament, which was not on Jessy’s radar at all.

Jessy shot a 42 on the first nine holes Wednesday and a 46 on the back side for an 88, putting him in the middle of the pack for Thursday’s final 18 holes.

“I went out for golf and state wasn’t really even an option,” he said. “For the team, that was about it, but not as an individual. This whole year has been crazy. To make it to the state tournament in a sport I’ve played for half a season is pretty crazy.”

THE VETERAN

Jerry Loegering isn’t the kind of guy to boast. But the Barnesville High School girls golf coach has plenty of reason to bust a couple of buttons this week.

Loegering, 78, began his career as a science teacher in 1951, moved to Barnesville from his native North Dakota in 1957 and created the girls golf program there in 1975. He almost retired from coaching after last season. Almost.

“I was thinking about it last year, but then they bugged me,” he said with a smile Wednesday, pointing toward his players on the practice range in Becker. So he hung around for one more year, which is ending with history. The 2011 Trojans are the first team from Barnesville to go to state in girls golf.

There were no seniors on last year’s team, which finished three shots out of first place (and a berth at state) in the Section 6 tournament. Current seniors Elizabeth Anderson, Chelsey Halverson and Nikki Hammer were part of the reason the coach stuck around.

“He told us he wanted to finish it out with us three seniors,” Hammer said. “I think he knew we could make it this year. He said we have a chance of making it, so we’ve got to keep that in the back of of our minds at all times and push ourselves.”

When scores at this year’s section tourney were being posted, it was quite nerve-wracking for the Trojans and their coach. “Mr. Loegering wouldn’t even go look at the scores,” Hammer said. “And he’s usually the one who keeps us calm.”

Jerry, who retired from teaching in 1993, has been around for so long that his former students include a few grandparents of current students. One of them is Ione Hammer, grandmother of Nikki Hammer and her sister Sami, a junior on the golf team.

“He’s special,” Sami said of the coach. “He’s meant a lot to all of us over the years.”

Jerry has coached individual players at state tournaments before, but this week’s experience is pretty darn special.

“Oh, it’s great. It’s great,” he said. “We were hoping, because we had everybody back. We had the three seniors this year. The team will have three pretty good golfers back next year, plus there are a few more at home.”

--Diet Coke Count: Zero (they sell some other brand of soft drink at the course in Becker.)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 795
*Miles John has driven: 10,760

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Kicking Off Another Busy Week Of State Tournaments6/14/2011
We’re all rested and ready for more fun and games, with the state golf and baseball tournaments keeping everybody hopping this week. I’m writing this from Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids, site of the Class 3A boys and girls golf tourney.

The 3A competition began today and will end Tuesday. The Class 2A tourney at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan and 1A at Pebble Creek in Becker will begin Tuesday and be completed Wednesday. The format is the same for all three tournaments: boys and girls individuals and teams play 18 holes each day. Weather can be a factor, but let’s hope that is not the case this week.

Baseball action begins Thursday with state quarterfinals and continues Friday with semifinals, leading up to the state championship games in all three classes next Tuesday, June 21, at Target Field.

I’ll have more later today…