Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.
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ST. CLOUD – Maybe it was the 10 a.m. Start time to the state tournament, or maybe it was the two-plus hour bus ride from Pine Island to Dick Putz Field. Either way, Pine Island's bats just had trouble waking up. All top-seeded Belle Plaine needed was a two-out RBI double from Nathan Hermann in the first inning to hold on for a 1-0 victory over the Panthers in the Class 2A state quarterfinals on Thursday.
COON RAPIDS – Red Wing was more than happy to forget Day 1 of the Class 3A state tournament. The Winger girls' golf team had state title aspirations but saw things go awry when the team shot a Day 1 score of 322 at Bunker Hills Golf Club. Edina pulled away from the field with a 298, leaving Red Wing in fourth and competing for second with Forest Lake and Stillwater.
PINE ISLAND – Whenever Brady Braaten can have some bragging rights over his dad, he’s not shy about bringing it up. There’s no malice between the Pine Island junior and his dad, Mark. In fact, the rivalry is all in good fun. But there is a joy in having a leg up on the old man. “I like to ask my dad after I have good games or after I got All-Conference last year, ‘Dad did you get All-Conference when you played?’” Brady said. “I like to try to brag and try to beat his records and be better than him so I can tell my family members or tell everyone that he wasn’t the only one.”
Twenty-four hours before the Major League Baseball draft, Ryan Boldt was starting to get an idea where he may go. “It wasn't until the night before that I had a feeling it would be Tampa Bay. There were a couple teams in the mix,” said Boldt, a Red Wing native who just finished his junior season as the University of Nebraska's center fielder.
Champion vs. champion. When high school golfers hit the links for the Class 3A state tournament Tuesday and Wednesday at Bunker Hills Golf Club, the defending 3A champions, Edina, will be pursued by last year’s 2A champions, Red Wing. “I think it’s probably the first time in the history of (state) golf where two champs are playing in the same class,” Wingers head coach Mark Herzog said. “That’s kind of unique. Edina’s got an easier way to get the low score because they’re a deeper team. It’s going to be interesting.”
ST. PAUL – Even with an oppressive 90-degree heat beating down on Hamline University, Kyle Groven was not about to run without his long black leggings. Looking to win state titles in the 100-, 400- and 4x400-meter relays, the Pine Island senior got some advice years ago from a former state champion in Minnehaha Academy's Jonathan Webb, who now runs for the University of Minnesota.
ST. PAUL – Little by little, Red Wing's Grahm Johnson climbs up the ladder with each discus throw. Coming in as the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A boys' discus at the Minnesota State Track and Field Championship, Johnson improved with each spin in the circle during prelims. First throw: 160 feet, 4 inches, then 166-2 and finally, a monster toss of 174-6. to get the No. 2 seed in finals. “It was good to get that one right away and build on that in the finals,” Johnson said.
NORTH MANKATO, Minn. – After watching Pequot Lakes warm up, Kevin Nelson had his strategy set: Speed kills. Zumbrota-Mazeppa's speed flustered the Patriots for seven innings. And speed is what helped the Cougars the school's first state championship. With seven stolen bases and five bunts that got Pequot Lakes more hot than the 90-degree temperatures at Caswell Park, Z-M's ability to scorch around the base paths secured the Class 2A championship with a 7-0 victory.
NORTH MANKATO, Minn. – It took until her senior year, but Aubrey Reuter is finally getting her chance to shine in the battery. The starting catcher for the Zumbrota-Mazeppa softball team this year, Reuter has had to bide her time. During head coach Kevin Nelson's tenure at Z-M, he's had three All-State catchers, and arguably none were better than Taylor Mort, who just graduated last spring. Mort's resume included three All-State selections, four All-Section and All-Hiawatha Valley League honors and the Republican Eagle's All-Area Player of the Year as a senior.
NORTH MANKATO, Minn. – Keep your emotions in check. After seeing a one-run lead against third-ranked Le Sueur-Henderson go away on a controversial non-strike call in the sixth inning resulting in a tying run, it could have broken Zumbrota-Mazeppa's spirit. But, the top-ranked Cougars kept their emotions in check. There was another inning of softball to play after all. And staying cool and collected amid chaos paid off for the Cougars as they are headed to the state finals for the first time in school history.