The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 20, 2013

It's been another interesting year from sideline


The Mankato Free Press

---- — It’s been an interesting 2013, filled with many special moments and achievements, witnessed from the sideline.

In the spirit of year-end, Top-??? lists, these five events/accomplishments rank at the top of this last year.

5. New Ulm won its second consecutive Class AA softball championship. Didn’t see the Eagles play during the regular season but caught the state-championship game.

When played well, fastpitch softball can be very exciting, and this 1-0 victory over Kasson-Mantorville was played in a championship manner. Eagles’ pitcher Sydney Schuck allowed five hits, but each time that Kasson-Mantorville threatened, she came up with a clutch pitch or the defense made a nice play.

New Ulm took advantage of its best scoring chance when Schuck delivered an RBI single in the fifth inning. The game ended with the tying run on third base.

4. Carlie Wagner dominated the state tournament for the second straight year, broke scoring records, some of which she set as a junior. She scored 50 points as New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva defeated Braham 60-59 in the championship game, outdueling Braham’s Rebekah Dahlman, Wagner’s only state peer in scoring.

Wagner set the record by scoring 129 points in three tournament games, but the best part is that it helped her team win a state title. It seems like the University of Minnesota is getting an exceptional player.

3. St. Cloud State defeated Minnesota State 54-48 in a regional football game last month. Though the locals might not have liked the outcome, there’s little doubt that this was the most exciting game played in the 50-plus seasons of football played there.

The teams combined for 1,153 yards of offense, with 41 plays of 10 or more yards and 16 plays of 20 or more yards. There were 15 touchdowns scored, 11 of which covered at least 10 yards and five that went for 50 or more yards.

The final play of the game was a pass attempt into the end zone, which was caught but beyond the boundary.

The only negative on the game is that it marked the end of watching seniors such as Jon Wolf and Chris Schaudt, who have been cornerstones of the program for the last two successful seasons.

2. Winona State claimed regional basketball title in overtime victory against Minnesota State. Another crushing defeat for the home team, which seemed on its way to the Elite Eight for the second time in program history. The 4,137 fans, third largest crowd ever, at Bresnan Arena that night were treated to elite level, Division II basketball.

The Mavericks trailed by 6 early in the second half but rallied to take a lead in the final minutes. A couple of banked-in 3-pointers helped Winona State make its comeback, but the Mavericks had the final shot in regulation, which was blocked. In the overtime, the Mavericks missed a couple free throws, allowing Winona State to claim a 76-73 victory.

It was the biggest stage for local college basketball, and the players responded with tremendous playmaking. It’s a game that will be long remembered, which is both a positive and negative, depending on which side you were sitting.

1. Minnesota State pitcher Jason Hoppe put together a string of 55 1/3 scoreless innings, highlight by 1-0 victory in the opening game of the regional tournament. Despite the tremendous success achieved by Minnesota State athletic teams in the last half-decade, it’s still rare when one of the athletes sets a national record.

Hoppe had been pitching well all season, winning four of his first five starts, but on April 7, after allowing a run in the first inning of a game against Augustana, the right-hander began a streak of 55 1/3 scoreless innings that continued into the national tournament.

The pinnacle of that streak came in the regional tournament when Hoppe pitched 10 2/3 scoreless innings in a 1-0, 14-inning victory over Missouri Southern. He allowed nine baserunners in that outing, but each time it looked like he might give up a run, he responded to keep his team in the game.

The streak ended in the national semifinals, though Minnesota State still won the game. He ended up just 5 innings short of the Division I record, 4 innings shy of the major-league record. It was an unbelievable three months.

There will be many challenges for this company and industry in the coming year, but by this time in 2014, there will undoubtedly be time to reflect on another list of great events and accomplishments, witnessed from the sideline.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.