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Top games: More than bragging rights at stake for crosstown rivals Mankato West, Mankato East

By Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine, 04/17/23, 10:45AM CDT


April 18: The winner in the season-long race between Scarlets and Cougars often reaches the state tournament.

Photo by SportsEngine

We task our reporters with identifying several intriguing games throughout the state to assemble our Top Games of the Week. The matchups are presented in no particular order, and when there are additional games we want to highlight, we’ll include them with brief notes.

Mankato West vs. Mankato East

5 p.m., Tuesday, April 18

Mankato West has ruled Section 2, both in Class 2A when the state had just three softball classes and now in Class 3A, for the past four seasons.

Mankato East, which won 13 section titles in 19 years from 1985 to 2004, would like very much to add to its storied history by knocking its crosstown rival off the throne it once nearly owned.

It promises to be an epic battle. And the teams get their first up-close look at each other on Tuesday afternoon in our top game of the week.

Mankato West beat the Cougars twice in last spring's section tournament, including a 2-1 decision in the championship game to advance to the state tournament and claim its third state title since 1990. The Scarlets lost several key players to graduation but remain a top contender. Breakdown Sports placed Mankato West third in its Class 3A preseason rankings.

But the Cougars (3-1, 2-0) received the Minnesota High School Sports Magazine's No. 2 ranking and could very well push a young Scarlet squad.

Mankato West (4-0, 4-0) is unbeaten and coming off a week in which it scored 37 runs in three games last week. The Scarlets have outscored opponents 42-9 in their four games, an indication coach Don Krusemark has found suitable replacements for graduated stars such as Lani Schoper, Lauryn Douglas and Abigail Stierlen.

Seniors Breck Carlson, a shortstop and centerfielder who hit .315 with three home runs and 21 RBIs last season, and outfielder Carlee Emery, who hit .383 with two homers and 25 RBIs, lead what is proving to be a potent Scarlet offense. Freshman Lydia Banse hit .441 with two home runs and 18 RBIs as an eighth-grader.

The Cougars counter with sophomore Kylinn Stangl, who struck out 116 batters and posted a 0.44 earned run average (ERA) as a freshman. She is 2-1 with 18 strikeouts in 17 innings this season. Junior Hailey Petzel has five hits in 10 at-bats and six RBIs and senior Sydney Jacobs is 7-for-13 with five RBIs.

The game also features two coaches that sit in the upper-echelon for career wins in state history. Mankato East's Joe Madson enters the week with 543 career victories to Mankato West's Krusemark with 481.

Hopkins vs. Rosemount

5 p.m., Tuesday, April 18

While a lot of Minnesota teams were taking advantage of the sudden arrival of summer last week, Hopkins was just dipping its toe in the water, playing its first and only game of the season in a 10-4 victory over Buffalo.

The Royals (1-0, 1-0) take the full plunge this week against four strong and more practiced opponents, including Tuesday's game at 2021 Class 4A state champion Rosemount (6-0, 6-0).

After a game Monday at Maple Grove, the Royals face the problem of how to contain the Irish's smoking hot bats. Rosemount batted .358 with 26 home runs last spring and the Irish haven't slowed any this season with 10 home runs in their first six games.

Rosemount's first baseman Paige Zender, who will play at Iowa State next season, is 8-for-21 with five homers and 10 RBIs already. Isabelle Nosan, also headed to Iowa State, has two home runs, as does Grace Nosan, who will play at St. Thomas in college.

Rosemount was upset by East Ridge in the 2022 Class 4A Section 3 championship game and the Irish are motivated to clear that hurdle this year. Clearing the 10-run mark in each of its games, Rosemount has outscored opponents 75-14 this season. 

That means a lot of pressure lands on the shoulders of the Royals' Signe Dohse, a senior pitcher who won 14 games and struck out 115 batters as a junior. Dohse often helps herself when she's at bat; she hit .415 with five home runs and 26 stolen bases a year ago.

St. Charles vs. Chatfield

4 p.m., Friday, April 21

It has been just three games, but the question comes to mind: Who will finally score a run again St. Charles?

Brenna Koeppel, an All-State selection as a pitcher a year ago, has been nearly perfect so far this season as the Saints (3-0, 2-0) have outscored three opponents 23-0. Koeppel already has 36 strikeouts in just 18 innings pitched.

Catcher Grace Buringa is 5-for-10 and third baseman Lauryn Delger, another 2022 All-State pick, is 4-for-10 with five RBIs for the fast-starting Saints.

Chatfield, however, could very well be the first to put a run on the board against St. Charles. The Gophers (4-1, 2-0) average 10 runs per game and enter the season as the defending Class 2A state champs. Claire Springer, who was 25-2 with a 0.94 ERA and 189 strikeouts last season and first baseman Alexis Hinkley return from the state championship team.

Friday's game in Chatfield could be a bellwether for the coming conference and Section 1 race. Both teams likely will be in the running to the end.

Other games to keep an eye on

Rock Ridge vs. Proctor, 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 19. Maddy Walsh returns after winning 22 games and striking out 257 batters to lead Proctor to the Class 2A championship game last spring. The Rails (0-0, 0-0) will be playing their third game of the week on Wednesday against some of the players they beat in the 2022 Class 2A Section 7 championship. Rock Ridge (0-1, 0-0) is a new school that combines Eveleth-Gilbert and Virginia.

Maple Grove vs. Anoka, 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 18. A matchup of two teams hungry for more after reaching a Class 4A section final last spring, Maple Grove in Section 5 and Anoka in Section 7. The Crimson (3-0, 2-0) have allowed just one run in each game. The game is a season-opener for Anoka.

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