Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Caswell Park in North Mankato will be a busy place later this week as 24 teams over three classes have been finalized for the State Girls Softball Tournament.
It should be one of the most competitive tournaments across the board in recent memory. All three state champions are back from last year. Stillwater looks to defend its AAA crown, while New Ulm is back in AA and Cherry is back in Class A.
The action gets underway in all three classes on Thursday at Caswell Park, with championships being crowned on Friday. Here’s a glance at all three brackets as they stand heading into the quarterfinals.
Class AAA: Stillwater Looks To Defend Title
After winning a state title last year, the Stillwater Ponies are back to try and defend it in this weather-condensed season. Stillwater enters the state tournament at 20-3 and faces Prior Lake in the quarterfinals. That winner will face the Maple Grove/Bloomington Jefferson winner later Thursday afternoon. If the Ponies and Crimson meet, it would be a pitching duel between two teams who have a combined four losses and a rematch of last year’s state championship game.
On the other side of the bracket, Forest Lake faces Farmington and Elk River goes up against Orono. I’ll pick Forest Lake and Stillwater to meet for this year’s state title.
Class AA: New Ulm Is The Team To Beat
The Class AA field is loaded with talented teams as should be expected at any state tournament. New Ulm leads the pack after winning last year’s state title over St. Anthony Village, which is also back in the state tournament. Half of last year’s field is back, making this year’s tournament both competitive and featuring a bit of new flavor.
New Ulm enters the tournament as the favorite at 20-3, but they’ll have plenty of challengers. They get Maple River in the quarterfinals, with the winner advancing to play the winner of Fergus Falls/Rockford. On the other side of the bracket, there’s a great match-up between Kasson-Mantorville and St. Anthony Village. Pequot Lakes also faces Hermantown in the quarterfinals.
My guess is St. Anthony Village will get New Ulm for the state championship.
Class A: Cherry Back To Defend Title
The Class A bracket should be very competitive this year as Cherry, at 21-2, is back to defend its 2012 state championship. They’ll get New Life Academy of Woodbury in the quarterfinals, with the winner advancing to face the New York Mills/Eden Valley-Watkins winner.
Cherry’s toughest competitor on the other side of the bracket might be Blooming Prairie, who will face New Ulm Cathedral in the quarterfinals. The only undefeated team in the entire bracket, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (22-0), faces Red Lake Falls in the other quarterfinal.
Seven of the eight teams in the field were in the state tournament last year, which should make this week as competitive as ever.
2013 Girls State Softball Tournament
Caswell Park – North Mankato
Class AAA Field: Orono (20-3), Elk River (18-3), Farmington (19-5), Forest Lake (22-2), Bloomington Jefferson (15-5), Maple Grove (21-1), Prior Lake (15-3), Stillwater (20-3)
Class AA Field: Kasson-Mantorville (22-2), St. Anthony Village (23-3), Hermantown, Pequot Lakes (19-2), New Ulm (20-3), Maple River (18-4), Fergus Falls (14-10), Rockford (16-3)
Class A Field: Cherry (21-2), New Life Academy (16-3), Eden Valley-Watkins (14-4), New York Mills (24-2), Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (22-0), Red Lake Falls (16-7), Blooming Prairie (20-3), New Ulm Cathedral (19-2)