The last time Stillwater and Maple Grove played each other was in June of 2019. The Crimson won 3-2 at Mankato's Caswell Park and took home the Class 4A state championship trophy.
It's early May and a lost season has passed, but this game has the look and feel of a postseason matchup. Both teams remain among the best in the state. In fact, Stillwater (9-0, 8-0) returns six players who took part in the 2019 championship game.
Stillwater, ranked No. 1 in the Class 4A coaches' poll from April 29, has survived tough matchups and rolled past lesser opponents. The Ponies triumphed 3-2 over No. 7-4A Forest Lake on April 16, 1-0 over No. 8-4A Elk River a day later and 3-1 over No. 10-4A East Ridge this past Friday. They have outscored their other six opponents 71-10.
Pitcher Allison Benning and shortstop Morgan Wohlers played in the 2019 championship game for Stillwater and are playing at a top level again this season. Cat Smetana, Taylor Gray, Gabby Lafavor and Kiera Murphy, all juniors, are the team's other holdovers.
Maple Grove (5-0, 4-0) has followed a similar path. After outscoring its first four opponents 50-3, the No. 5-4A Crimson escaped Andover last Thursday with a 4-0 victory. Three Maple Grove players, including Dorothy Dueck and Isabella Daniels, played in the 2019 state championship game.
Daniels is 3-0 this spring with 20 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched and is batting .500 (5-for-10) with six RBIs. Dueck has six hits in eight at-bats and four RBIs. Junior shortstop Elizabeth Berry, the third returning player from the state champion squad, is 7-for-15 with seven RBIs. Katelyn Kasper and Jenna Gruenig have seven RBIs each.