Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Let's get ready to rumble

It's state wrestling time again and this year I'll be doing my best to update my blog with results as soon as I can get them.

I won't be able to make it to the team tournament on Thursday but I'm hoping to start blogging around 10:30 a.m. Friday. At that point I should be able to bring readers up to date on first-round action from the Class AA individual tournament. The Class A tournament begins around 1 p.m. which I plan to cover from start to finish.

There are two ways to find my blog. You can go to our newspaper website at www.mankatofreepress.com and click on the state wrestling link. Or you may come directly here at mankatofreepresssports.blogspot.com

If you have questions about the tournament on Friday or Saturday, let me know.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

And then there were 3

No matter what happens in today's Minnesota State baseball game against Delta State at the Division II College World Series, the Mavericks should be lauded for a superb postseason run.

It started back on May 9 when MSU opened the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament at Franklin Rogers Park. They went 5-1 to win the NSIC crown and then hosted the Central Regional Tournament five days later.

MSU went undefeated in that one, posting a 4-0 record to advance to the D-II CWS in Cary, N.C. After dropping their first game to Southern New Hampshire, the Mavericks have reeled off three straight wins to become one of only three teams left vying for the national championship.

For much of the season it was Harvey Martin and Ben Kincaid who led the pitching staff but they have been relatively quiet in the postseason. Instead, it's been guys like Tyler Ockuly, Jason Hoppe and T.J. Larson who have come up with big performances. Ockuly and Hoppe have both pitched complete-game shutouts in the World Series.

It will be interesting to see who MSU coach Matt Magers starts today. Will it be Martin or Kincaid, who are both well-rested? Or has he lost faith in them and turn to Larson or Bryce Bellin or Nick Sutherland instead?

Considering much of the MSU staff was unproven at the college level to start the year, Magers has done an excellent job with his pitchers. The team's 51-11 record speaks for itself. And the team's 12-2 record since the end of the regular season is the most successful postseason run in team history.

Magers should be commended for a job well done. But as long as you're out in North Carolina anyway, what do you say you win two more games fellas?

Friday, May 25, 2012

For the second time in three years the Minnesota State baseball team will compete in the NCAA Division II College World Series which begins Saturday. MSU (48-10) opens play at 4 p.m. (CST) against Southern New Hampshire in Cary, N.C.

Author and longtime baseball writer/columnist Brett Friedlander has agreed to cover the Mavericks for us during their World Series trek. Friedlander has been covering sports in the North Carolina area for many years and, in 2009, co-authored the book "Chasing Moonlight: The True Story of Field of Dreams' Doc Graham." along with R.W. Reising.

Moonlight Graham was a memorable character from the W.P. Kinsella book "Shoeless Joe" which was later turned into the academy-award winning movie "Field of Dreams" starring Kevin Kostner. Kinsella picked Graham to be part of his novel because he was a real-life outfielder who made it to the major leagues but never got to bat. He appeared in one game with the New York Giants without coming to the plate.

Friedlander, like many of us, wondered what happened to the real Moonlight Graham after seeing him in Field of Dreams and decided to do some research. His book is the result of that research and well worth reading.

Apparently Graham went on settle in Chisholm, Minn., where he became a revered doctor for the community for most of his life. He sat with patients through epidemics and wrote a treatise on blood pressure that became required reading at medical schools worldwide for many years.

 "I met  a lot of great people in Chisholm while I was researching the book and they've become good friends," Friedlander said. "I get back there every once in a while to visit."

There's a scene in the movie where Kevin Costner's character addresses Graham (played by Burt Lancaster) about his fraction of an instant in the major leagues: "For five minutes you came within ... y-you came this close. It would KILL some men to get so close to their dream and not touch it. God, they'd consider it a tragedy."

Graham replied: "Son, if I'd only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes ... now that would have been a tragedy."

If you've read Friedlander's book you know those turned out to be among the truest words spoken in a movie whose characters are highly fictionalized.

Anyway, we're pleased to have Friedlander writing for our newspaper and look forward to his coverage of the MSU team. Look for it in Sunday's paper.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's time for the playoffs

The high school softball and baseball playoffs begin in earnest this week and a number of local and area teams  look to be in good shape for sustained postseason runs.

The Mankato West and East softball teams, who have just two losses apiece, are the top seeds in the Section 2AAA tournament. West is first, East is second and both have first-round byes in the competition at Miller Park in Eden Prairie.

In the southern half of the Section 2A softball tournament, Mankato Loyola is not only the No. 1 seed in the field but is also ranked No. 1 in all of Class A. Nicollet is the No. 2 seed. In the northern half, New Ulm Cathedral is first while Sleepy Eye St. Mary's is second.

In Section 2AA, St. Peter is the top seed in the south and NRHEG is second. Le Sueur-Henderson is No. 1 in the north followed by Belle Plaine at No. 2. New Ulm Public is second behind Pipestone Area in the southern half of Section 3AA. 

In baseball, Loyola again is a top seed in the southern part of Section 2A. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown is second. Sleepy Eye St. Mary's and Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart are the first two seeds in the northern half.

The Section 2AA baseball bracket looks a lot like the same bracket in softball. Le Sueur-Henderson and NRHEG are the first two seeds in the south. Holy Family Catholic and Belle Plaine are tops in the north.

New Ulm is second behind Fairmont in the southern half of Section 3AA. Mankato East and West drew bottom-half seeds in Section 2AAA and will have win play-in games to reach Saturday's quarterfinals.

East must defeat Chaska in a 1 p.m. game before taking on No. 1 seed Eden Prairie at 3:30 p.m. The Scarlets must knock off Waconia before meeting No. 2 Hutchinson in a 3:30 p.m. game.

Friday, May 18, 2012

MSU baseball vs. Mesa State: Live blog

Friday, May 11, 2012

All but a done deal

As of Friday morning about the only thing standing between a new Vikings' stadium and the end of the stadium debate was the governor's signature on the bill that came out of the joint legislative committee. We all know the governor will sign so it appears Zygi Wilf finally got his baby.

I'm sure I speak for the majority  when I say the stadium debate went on a little too long. Check that, a lot too long. We were all sick of it -- both supporters and non-supporters of the new stadium.

It didn't surprise me that the process took a long time, and it didn't even surprise me when some crazy amendments out of left field were tacked on and then rescinded near the end. What did surprise me was the single act that spurred the legislature to take action.

Just when it seemed the bill was dead and the debate was going to continue for another year or two, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided to talk to the Minnesota lawmakers and plead the Vikings' case. Granted, having the NFL commissioner come and talk to you is a big deal to an avid football fan, but I didn't expect it to carry so much weight with so many politicians, especially those who rarely watch a game on Sunday.

Perhaps it was just coincidence that the House and Senate kicked into high gear on the stadium issue right after Goodell's appearance. Perhaps they were as sick of the debate as the rest of us were. Still, it seems odd timing for the legislature to finally start tackling the issue seriously right after the commish appeared -- unless the two were connected.

We may never know for sure but the debate is over. The rebuilding process may now resume..