Joe Brown is a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia. Prior to becoming regional editor, he was the sports editor of the Red Wing Republican Eagle from 2012-2018. He also worked as the sports editor for the Marshall Independent (2010-2012) and as a sports/news clerk for the St. Cloud Times (2008-2009). He graduated from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication.
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NORTH MANKATO — At this time a year ago, Rylee Schliep wasn't even on the 18-player state roster for Zumbrota-Mazeppa. Now, Schliep's the one sparking the Cougars into another state championship. After collecting Z-M's first hit against top-seeded Maple Lake with a one-out single in the bottom of the third inning, Schliep got the wheels turning for the Cougars by stealing second base and scoring the team's first run with a bang-bang play at the plate on a Natalie Majerus single.
NORTH MANKATO – For the second straight year, Zumbrota-Mazeppa left Caswell Park as Class 2A's best team. Scoring three runs in the top of the third inning, the second-seeded Cougars fought off top-seeded Maple Lake for a 4-1 victory in the state championship on Friday. Tara Matuska was 1-for-3 with a two-run single in the third inning. Rylee Schliep scored Z-M's first run of the game on an error. Then in the fourth, one more run came across for the Cougars as Natalye Quam scored on another Irish error.
NORTH MANKATO – Doubt didn't creep into Brianna Albers' mind. With the breadth of talent the Zumbrota-Mazeppa lineup has had over the years, it was hard for Albers to crack the Cougars' lineup. The infield was stacked, so coach Kevin Nelson tried moving her to the outfield to no avail. But Albers wasn't deterred. “I knew the moment would come and I wanted to stick it out,” Albers said. “And I'm glad I did.”
NORTH MANKATO – There was a time this year where Natalie Majerus struggled. But when the lights come on at Caswell Park, the Zumbrota-Mazeppa senior center fielder becomes impossible to stop. “I think it's the fans,” Majerus said. “They always pump us up and everyone is here to support us. It's pretty awesome. We're not usually used to that. So seeing a bunch of different people helps us out.”
NORTH MANKATO – Zumbrota-Mazeppa planned all week for slower pitching. . After drawing unseeded St. Agnes in the Class 2A state quarterfinals, the second-seeded Cougars knew the Aggies could hit. The pitching, that was a question mark. “We saw they gave up a lot of runs per game. We talked to a couple people who said their pitching wasn't strong,” said Z-M head coach Kevin Nelson. “We slowed it down all week and make it a point to stay back and hit the ball hard instead of being out front.” Nelson continued, “We put the pressure on early and set the tone.”
Three lineup cards will be in Kevin Nelson’s pocket for Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s trip to state. It started as a perceived slight after the Cougars took a Section 1AA playoff loss from Rochester Lourdes, when one of the coaches asked Nelson for another card. “She comes over to me after the first game and says, ‘Do you have an extra lineup card? I only brought one with me,’” Nelson said. “I couldn’t believe that.”
The dugout was shell-shocked. But pitcher Kyle Hawe was unfazed. Things looked bleak for the Red Wing baseball team as they gave up three errors in the top of the first inning of the Section 1AAA championship against Northfield, allowing three Raiders to cross home in the process. Save for a few swear words, the Wingers' dugout was uncomfortably silent. And yet, Hawe didn't lose faith in the defense behind him.
CANNON FALLS — Red Wing girls’ golf coach Mark Herzog was beaming. As his golfers came came into the Cannon Golf Club, scores continued to drop up and down the lineup. Even as the team’s final player, Stephanie Herzog, walked off the green, Red Wing’s 11th straight trip to state was a formality. “Our horses came to play today,” Mark said.
LAKEVILLE – The physical tools have been there for Madisyn Lyons. But the gains she's made on the mental end, that is what has helped the Red Wing junior separate herself from the pack. Before she takes a leap into the jumper's pit – whether in the long jump or triple – keeping Lyons' mind right has been the focus of the coaches.
LAKEVILLE – Putting newcomers into a relay race is a risky endeavor. But Red Wing wanted its best for the 4x200-meter relay, so it was time to get a little creative. “We had eight girls run the 200 and he picked the top times,” said Wingers junior Madisyn Lyons. “We were going off a guesstimate time, so we didn't know where we'd end up.” When the practice experiment was over, two newcomers, Paige Patterson and Lyons, would start the race with two 4x200 stalwarts in Emily Hart and Tyler McGrath.