Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ten Memorable Moments From the 2016-17 High School Sports Season

When the Eden Prairie Eagles won the Class AAAA baseball title on June 19, it marked the end of the 2016-17 high school sports season.  Here are 10 memorable moments (in any order) from this season.

1.  For the first time in school history, the Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights won a state championship in football as they captured the Class AAAA title against the Winona Winhawks.

2.  The St. Louis Park girls soccer team finally recorded a win against one of the powerhouse programs in Class A, the Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights.

3.  It was run run run for the Elk River Elks as they beat the Spring Lake Park Panthers in the Class AAAAA football championship 42-14 without throwing a single pass.  It also marked the 125th anniversary of football for the Sherburne County school.

4. December 1 was the St. Louis Park Orioles boys hockey team's home opener against the Rochester Mayo Spartans and Bauer Neudecker, who would become a Mr. Hockey finalist scored six goals to lead the Orioles.

5.  The good news was that the Blake Bears won their seventh Class A girls hockey championship.  The bad news is they won't be able to defend their title because the Bears will be moving up to Section 6AA next season where they will have to battle the Class AA champion Edina Hornets for a trip to St. Paul.

6.  The "Halloween Machine", better known as the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks, won their first state title in boys hockey since 1980 with a victory over the Moorhead Spuds.  It was also the first all northern Class AA final since 1997 when the Roseau Rams beat Grand Rapids.

7.  And speaking of Roseau, the Rams girls basketball team, led by Kacie, Kiley and Kelsey Borowicz, went unbeaten to win their first state Class AA championship.

8.  The Minneapolis North Polars, with several players from the state Class A football championship team, won their second consecutive Class A boys basketball title.  Next season the Polars will move up to Class AA.

9.  History was made in the state Class AAA championship when the DeLaSalle Islanders became the first school to win six straight championships.  It also marked the end of an era for head coach Dave Thorson who resigned to become an assistant coach at Drake University.  Can his replacement Travis Bledsoe lead the Islanders to seven in a row in 2018?

10.  What a spring sports season for the Eden Prairie Eagles.  On June 17, the girls lacrosse team won their third straight state championship and two days later, the baseball team won the Class AAAA title that included a quarterfinal win over the defending state champion Wayzata Trojans.

Those are some moments to remember from the 2016-17 season.  The season also brought to a close the career of Kevin Merkle, who served as tournament director for football, boys basketball, dance team and baseball for 17 years.  He will be replaced by former Mounds View activities director Bob Madison.

Friday, June 16, 2017

State Lacrosse and Baseball Finals Wrap up 2016-17 High School Sports Season

The Minnesota high school sports season is winding down for 2016-17 as the state lacrosse and baseball finals take place Saturday, June 17 and Monday, June 19.  Here's a preview of the championships in lacrosse and baseball.

Saturday's state girls lacrosse championship game has a familiar ring as the Blake Bears face the Eden Prairie Eagles who will be going for their third consecutive state title.  The two schools played each other in the regular season on May 25 with the Eagles on top 19-13.  The only two years that the two schools have not met for the state title were are 2013 and 2015.  Can Eden Prairie achieve a three peat or will Blake win their first state title since 2014?  Head down Highway 212 to Chanhassen at 3:30 and find out who will take home the championship trophy.

As for the boys lacrosse championship at 6 PM, the Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights will be going for their first state title since 2011 as they face the top seeded Eagan Wildcats at 6 PM.  The Red Knights held off a valiant comeback by the Wayzata Trojans to advance to the state finals and the Wildcats got an overtime goal from Cole Powell to beat the Mahtomedi Zephyrs.

Head over to Target Field on the 19th for Championship Monday in the state baseball tournament as the title games in the four classes take place.  First up at 10 AM is the Class A championship with the top seeded Parkers Prairie Panthers taking on the Legacy Christian Academy Lions.  For those of you who never heard of Legacy Christian Academy, it's the former Meadow Creek Christian that switched to its current moniker in 2010 and is going for their first state baseball title against a Panther team that has scored eight runs in both state tournament games.  Parkers Prairie shut out Pillager 8-0 in the quarterfinals and beat Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove 8-3 in the semifinals.  Can the Panthers continue their string of eight run games?

Next up at 1 PM is the Class AA championship with the top seeded and defending Class AA champion Minnehaha Academy Redhawks battling the Pierz Pioneers.  The Redhawks have an outstanding offense as the scored 18 runs in two games, beating the Warroad Warriors in the quarterfinals 10-5 and the Maple Lake Irish 8-3 in the semifinals.  The Pioneers earned their trip down Highway 10 with a 6-2 quarterfinal win over the New London-Spicer Wildcats and broke a scoreless tie on Mat Tautges walkoff single in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat the Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers in the semifinals.

The Waconia Wildcats could become the first team to go unbeaten since St. Cloud Cathedral in 2015 but first they have to face the Hibbing Bluejackets in the Class AAA final at 4 PM.  The Wildcats have given fans plenty of drama at Siebert Field with a couple of walkoff wins.  Alex Logelin hit a game winning single in the quarterfinals to beat the Mahtomedi Zephyrs and Robert Smith came through in the semifinals to top the Marshall Tigers.  The Bluejackets have returned to the state title game for the first time since 1989 when they lost to the Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders.  They beat the second seeded St. Cloud Tech in the quarterfinals and battled back from a 7-3 deficit with five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat the Alexandria Cardinals in the semifinals.  It should be an interesting Class AAA final.

There will be a new Class AAAA champion as the Eden Prairie Eagles battle the Forest Lake Rangers at 7 PM.  The Eagles ended the Wayzata Trojans championship reign with a 6-1 win in the quarterfinals and got a one hitter from Torben Urdahl to rout the Lakeville North Panthers 14-0 in the semifinals.  The Rangers make their first trip to the finals since they lost to the Coon Rapids Cardinals in the Class AA championship.  They beat the Maple Grove Crimson 6-5 in eight innings in the quarterfinals and walloped their Suburban East rivals the Woodbury Royals 9-1 in the semifinals.

There's plenty of championship action coming up to close out the 2016-17 high school sports season.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Byrnes Blew Opportunity at Hosting Wheel of Fortune

A few days ago, I found one of the rare pilots from Wheel of Fortune that goes back to August, 1974.  Here's a trivia question.  Who hosted the second pilot?  It was not Chuck Woolery.  It was Edd Byrnes, best known as the hair combing Kookie on the hit private eye series 77 Sunset Strip.

I did watch the pilot, and to me it looked like Byrnes did not handle his hosting duties well.  According to his autobiography Kookie, No More, Byrnes drank himself out of a job since he was an alcoholic at that time and it showed when he was on camera.

First of all, he goofed on mentioning the total dollar amount of the first round.  He mentioned that the top dollar value on the wheel was $350.  he also mentioned that the total amount for the round was $435.  He didn't seemed focused at all on the figures.

Also, Byrnes lacked warmth and empathy toward the contestants.  In the first round, when the contestant wanted to solve the puzzle he said "Look at all the money you can win!" and then he yelled "Solve it!"  A good game show host is supposed to have good rapport with the contestants and Byrnes did not show a lot of rapport at all.

It was a good move by the show's creator Merv Griffin not to hire Byrnes as host and instead go with Woolery and co-host Susan Stafford.  If Byrnes was Wheel of Fortune's permanent host, the show would have probably lasted 13 weeks or he would have been fired.  There would have been no Pat Sajak and Vanna White as well as a nighttime syndicated version that still remains popular to this day, long after the passing of original announcer Charlie O'Donnell.

It's a rare find for game show fans.  Click on the link and you'll see and hear why Byrnes was not qualified to be a game show host.

Madison Named Associate Director of MSHSL

Mounds View High School Activities Director Bob Madison has been named an Associate Director of the Minnesota State High School League at the bi-monthly board meeting last Monday.

Madison replaces Kevin Merkle, who is retiring after serving the MSHSL for 17 years.

Among Madison's duties when he starts his new position July 27 is serving as tournament director for the state football, boys basketball and baseball tournaments.  He will also administrate the state dance team tournament.

Before Madison became Activities Director at Mounds View, he was an assistant girls hockey coach at district rival Irondale in the 1997-98 season.  The following season, he was promoted to head coach and served in that role for the next two seasons.  Among the top players he coached were Anna and Maria Richardson, Amie Lorence and Tanna Tuomie.  He also coached a couple of outstanding goalies in Karen Lidinsky and Claire Reber.  When Madison left Irondale for Mounds view, he was replace by then assistant coach Tom Rodefeld, who will begin his 17th season when practice gets underway in late October.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Ilstrup Leads SLP Orioles to Section 5 Quarterfinal Win

Playing his final game on the turf field in St. Louis Park, Brody Ilstrup would go out in style with a six goal outburst that led the host Orioles to a 15-10 win over the Providence Academy Lions in the Section 5 Boys Lacrosse Quarterfinals Thursday night.

It was a rematch of a regular season game played May 16 in Plymouth where the Lions roared past the Orioles 19-8.

St. Louis Park broke out of the starting gate early on Jackson Lochan's center slot goal :13 into the game.  He would put the Orioles up by two as he scored from the left side :28 later.  Ilstrup, who will play next season at Carthage collage in Kenosha, WI would also excel on defense as he intercepted a Providence Academy pass, find the open net and put the ball in.  He would pick up an assist on St. Louis Park's fourth goal as Cole Justesen got a centering pass and fired it into the net.  The Lions would get on the board on a long stick goal from Griffin Ewing.  They would eventually tie the game with a three goal run in a period of :46.  Matthew Dowden would score first, then the second goal deflected off an Oriole and the goal was credited to Sam Young.  Ewing would score his second long stick goal to end the first period even at four.

The Lions would vault into the lead in the second period as Ian Smith made a spin move and the ball landed into the net.  The Orioles would end Providence Academy's five goal run as Lochan made a centering pass to Justesen and he would score his second goal.  The Lions would regain the lead with three goals,with Mike Kahler scoring first and Smith adding two to put Providence Academy ahead at the half 8-5.

Lochan's spin move in the center slot resulted in the Orioles opening the third period scoring.  Ilstrup would go on a scoring binge with three straight goals.  His first came off a pass from Kyle Hedblom followed by a liner from the 25 yard line.  The Lions would get their lone goal of the period when Dowden made a great behind the back pass to Kahler and he would find the net.  Ilstrup would wrap up the third period scoring with his fourth goal of the game and St. Louis Park evened the score at nine.

The Orioles would strike early in the fourth period on Mitchell Vortherm's goal :33 into the period.  The Lions would counter :15 later as Kole DeRosier rebounded Quinn Ewing's shot for a goal.  But it would be the last time Providence Academy would send the ball to the net as St. Louis Park would clinch a semifinal berth with five unanswered goals.  Ilstrup would score the first two and Lochan would pick up his fourth goal of the game.  Vortherm's liner would sail into the net and Mikel Kieselbach would conclude the scoring with 1:54 left in the game.

St. Louis Park improves their record to 7-7 and advances to the Section 5 semifinals on Monday, June 5 against the top seeded Benilde-St. Margaret's at 7 PM at BSM.  Providence Academy concludes their season with a record of 8-6.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Who's Hot and Who's Not May 2017

As May comes to a close, it's time for another installment of "Who's Hot and Who's Not?"  A look at trends in baseball.

                                                     AMERICAN LEAGUE
                                                     WHO'S HOT?
1.  Astros.  The Astros have been on a roll in May, especially when they came to Target Field to take on the Twins.  Their solid lineup scored 40 runs against the Twins in a three game series and now they have a seven game winning streak.  The good news is that Dallas Keuchel is back after a stint on the 10 day disabled list due to a neck injury.  Keep your eye on the Astros.  This could be the best team since they began in 1962 as the Colt .45s and have never won a pennant.

2.  Yankees.  The Baby Bombers have been playing some really good baseball in May as they have vaulted into first place in the AL East.  One of the keys to their success so far is rookie right fielder Aaron Judge.  In 47 games this season, he has hit 17 home runs.  Let's not forget the pitching staff, anchored by Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino and Michael Pineda.  Dylan Betances has taken over the closer role with Aroldis Chapman on the disabled list.  Could this be the start of another exciting AL East race.

3.  Indians.  After a slow start, Edwin Encarnacion has 10 home runs and has been a part of The Tribe's surge toward the top of the AL central and have pulled in within a couple of percentage points of the slumping Twins.  Trevor Bauer had a superb outing on May 30 with 14 strikeouts in seven innings against the Oakland A's.  Danny Salazar has also been solid on the mound.

                                                      WHO'S NOT?
1.  Twins.  Once upon a time, the Twins, who won a team low 59 games last season were getting solid pitching from Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios as well as outstanding hitting from Brian Dozier and spectacular defense from Byron Buxton.  But the Twins have collapsed like the roof at their former home the Metrodome and have lost four straight games and their hold on first place.  Thy lost a 15 inning heart breaker to the Rays and got swept by the Astros.  Can the Twins break their slump as they head west to Anaheim?

2.  Orioles.  It was a two team race earlier this month between the Yankees and the Orioles in the AL East until the Orioles went into a slump where they have won two of their last ten games to fall into third place.  Also, the Red Sox have been on a tear that moved them into second place.

3.  Mike Trout.  Bad news for Twins fans who hope to see the two time AL MVP in action this weekend in Anaheim,.  Trout will be out six to eight weeks due to a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.  He could also miss the series over the Fourth of July week at Target Field and the All Star Game where he is among the vote leaders.

                                                  NATIONAL LEAGUE
                                                      WHO'S HOT?
1.  Nationals.  There is joy in the nation's capitol as the Nationals have dominated the NL East and have the only winning record in the division.  Their lineup has been outstanding and they have had a couple of great performances by their one-two punch on the mound of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasberg.  Last week, Scherzer fanned 13 batters and Strasberg followed up with a 15 strikeout game.  Can they sustain their excellent when Bryce Harper has to serve a three game suspension for his role in the Memorial Day Brawl against the Giants?

2.  Brewers.  Look who's in first place in the NL Central.  The Brewers.  Though they lost their star player Ryan Braun to the disabled list, they had an outstanding series against the Diamondbacks and a great start from outfield Eric Thames, who hit 10 home runs in April.  They also have outstanding pitching from Wily Peralta and Zach Davies.  The addition of Neftali Feliz as their closer has also kept the Brewers in contention.

3. NL West.  When you look at the standings in the NL West, it has become a three team race between the Rockies, the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers.  Only a half game separates the three teams as the Dodgers have surged into the race, thanks to a couple of top notch starts from their ace Clayton Kershaw.  He's been the anchor of the Dodgers pitching staff which leads the majors with a 3.22 ERA.  This could rival last year's race in the AL East.

                                               WHO'S NOT?
1.  Cubs.  To quote the opening line from the Buffalo Springfield song "For What it's Worth", "There's something happening here."  What's exactly clear is the world champion Cubs have gone into a slump, losing six straight games and got swept by the lowly Padres.  It doesn't get easier for the Cubs since they start a weekend series with the rival Cardinals on Friday.

2.  Phillies.  Now this sounds familiar.  The Phillies are in last place in the NL East.  Since they won five straight division titles from 2007-11, the Phillies have finished last or close to the bottom five of the last six years.  They are a young team with only one starter at 30 or older, Michael Saunders.  But they do have a bright spot on the mound in former Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson.

3.  Giants.  Injuries have hampered the Giants early in the season.  After losing Madison Bumgarner in April due to a left shoulder strain, they have lost Hunter Pence, Conor Gillespie and Michael Morse due to injuries.  Though the Giants have had a strong pitching staff with Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore, the offence hasn't been productive, ranking next to last in batting average and the least number of home runs in the majors with 42.  It could be a long year in the Bay Area with the Giants and A's occupying the basement in both league's Western Divisions.


Friday, May 26, 2017

SLP Orioles Shut Out Mpls. South Tigers

Johnny Sorenson was "Johnny on the Spot" Friday night, combining with Shea Pekarek on a one hitter and striking out seven batters to lead the St. Louis Park Orioles to a 10-0 win over the Minneapolis South Tigers in an elimination round game in the 2017 Section 6AAAA Baseball Tournament at Derrick Keller Field at Dakota Park.

The Tigers would get their only hit when lead off batter Roy Palmer singled to start the game.  After Jack Hennen reached base on an error by Pekarek and Ben Murray hit into a fielders choice, Sorenson would strike out the next two batters to prevent further damage.

As for the Orioles offense, they would open the scoring in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI double by Jacob Stillman that scored Luke Mobley.  St. Louis Park sent 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fourth as Sorenson, who retired 11 straight Tigers, would score on a wild pitch from Dayne Schweiger.  Pekarek would single home Stillman for the second run and Zach Listiak and Pekarek would score on an error.  Mobley would hit an RBI single to score Riley Dvorak and the Orioles would increase their lead to six.

Sorenson would begin the top of the fifth with a pair of strikeouts.  He got Isaias Bruggeman-Cohen on a swinging strike out and pinch hitter Will Danaher on a called third strike.  But he would give up back to back walks to Ryan Skow and Isaac Staichez that would bring St. Louis Park head coach Brian Kelly out of the dugout and he would give the ball to Pekarek who got Palmer to hit into a force play to end the top of the fifth inning.

The Orioles would clinch the win in the bottom of the sixth that started with singles by Connor Cornell and Pekarek and Dvorak would hit a two run single to score both the runners.  Dvorak would cross the plate on Julien Shadle's double.  Ian Sandbo would run for Shadle and Brent Ryan would lay down a squeeze bunt that enabled Sandbo to head home uncontested and the game would end due to the ten run rule.

St. Louis Park improved their record to 9-13 and will face the Armstrong Falcons on Tuesday, May 30 at 4:30 in Plymouth.  Armstrong moved into the elimination bracket following a walk off win by the Hopkins Royals 4-3.  The two teams last met on April 24 with the Orioles holding off the Falcons 4-3.  Mpls.South concluded their season with a record of 10-10.