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Stillwater ousts top seed Forest Lake, Maple Grove defeats East Ridge

By JIM PAULSEN, Star Tribune, 06/06/19, 6:00PM CDT


The defending champion Ponies will meet the Crimson on Friday for the Class 4A championship.

Photo by Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

For the second consecutive year, Stillwater has come into the state tournament with with a significant amount of losses, only to look unbeatable once it gets to the state tournament.

The Ponies won the 2018 Class 4A state title despite entering the tournament with a .500 record. This year’s team has nine losses, a shocking total considering how thoroughly they dominated their two foes Thursday.
Stillwater (20-9) defeated Farmington 6-2 in the quarterfinals before routing No. 1-seeded Forest Lake 9-1 in the semifinals, earning a return trip to the championship game.

The secret, it turns out, is simple.

The Ponies’ main weapon was a relentless offense. They had 22 hits in the two games — 11 in each — and hit four home runs.

Coach Bob Beedle said Stillwater’s approach isn’t complicated. “If we’re swinging at good pitches, we’re good hitters,’’ he said. “If we’re swinging at bad pitches, nobody’s a good hitter.”

Catcher Torri Chute, who homered in each game, said it helps that the Ponies don’t look at losses the way others do.

“Conference [games] are important, but it’s also your time to figure everything out and get everything out of the way before postseason,’’ she said, “because that’s when it really matters.”

Photo by Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Unburdened Crimson reach finals for fourth time in program history

NORTH MANKATO — According to Maple Grove softball coach Jim Koltes, what the Crimson did Thursday — defeat Edina 2-0 in the quarterfinals and East Ridge 4-2 in the semifinals — to advance to the Class 4A softball state championship game on Friday could have happened last year. The talent hasn’t changed much.

The difference, however, was emotional. Unburdened by worries and determined to close out their high school careers on top, the players rode the exceptional right arm of pitcher Ava Dueck and got just enough timely hitting to make it to the finals for the fourth time in program history.

“Ava was on fire today,” Koltes said. “She was hitting her spots, she was throwing hard. It helps when it’s 87 degrees, so was able to get loose.”

For the day at Caswell Park, Dueck pitched 13 consecutive shutout innings. Her scoreless streak ended when East Ridge put on a late rally and scored twice in the top of the seventh inning. But Dueck got Morgan Anderson to pop out to short to snuff out the threat and secure the victory.

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