Just like that, one of the shortest regular seasons ever is already over for softball and tennis, and the end is coming quickly for other spring sports.
Here is a look at how things stand:
Even in a compressed season, the softball teams expected to set the pace in Class 4A did just that. Now, the section playoffs await.
Class 4A’s No. 1-ranked team, Prior Lake, compiled an 18-2 record and a perfect 13-0 mark in the South Suburban Conference behind arguably the best pitcher in the metro, Kailey Ahlstrom. The Lakers justified their lofty ranking with a 3-1 victory over No. 2-ranked Forest Lake on Friday. They earned the top seed in the Section 2 playoffs, one spot ahead of Chanhassen, which has won the section three consecutive years.
Buffalo has flexed offensive muscle all season, scoring in double figures nine times. Shortstop Emily Hansen has driven the Bison’s scoring machine with her intimidating bat. Hansen, a University of Minnesota signee, has 15 home runs, one shy of the state record for a single season. Buffalo (16-2) earned the No. 1 seed in Class 4A, Section 8.
Both Section 1 and Section 3 are loaded at the top. Pitcher Mia Kraimer makes top-seeded New Prague dangerous in Section 1, while defending 4A state champion Farmington was seeded No. 2. In Section 3, Park of Cottage Grove flaunts an 18-1 record as the No. 1 seed, one spot ahead of Eastview, which emerged from the rugged South Suburban Conference with a 15-4 overall record.
In Class 3A, one-loss North Branch earned the No. 1 seed in Section 7 and appears most likely to make a state tournament run and wrest the state title from the Big Nine conference. The league has won the past two 3A championships and has three of the top four teams in the most current Class 3A rankings.
In Class 2A, to no one’s surprise, No. 1-ranked Maple Lake wrapped up an undefeated regular season and the top spot in the Section 5 playoffs. The Irish have lost just once over the past two seasons, to Zumbrota-Mazeppa in the 2A state championship game last June.
As many as four teams — Mounds View, Blake, Edina and Rochester Century — have a legitimate shot at a Class 2A team state championship June 6. But it’s a certainty at least one of those teams won’t get there.
Top-ranked Mounds View (Section 4) and No. 4 Rochester Century (Section 1) are virtual locks to earn state tournament berths, having earned No. 1 section seeds.
It’s Section 6 in Class 2A that is worth noting. Blake, the 2017 Class 1A team champions, moved up to Class 2A this season. The Bears earned the No. 1 seed in Section 6 by virtue of a 4-3 victory over No. 2-seeded Edina during the regular season.
Another battle for a state tournament berth exists in Class 2A, Section 2, where top-seeded Orono will try to keep two-time defending state champion Minnetonka from a shot at a three-peat.
Track and field
Maintaining an available track at Wayzata High School meant clearing historic April snow piles the old fashioned way.
“There are rumors out there that we have heating coils — we don’t,” Trojans’ boys’ coach Aaron Berndt joked. “We plowed it.”
Sure, Wayzata draws from well-heeled communities. But the Trojans’ track and field teams earned their success, sweeping last week’s Class 3A True Team state meet. And more accolades are well within reach.
The Trojans will challenge for “team” titles at June’s Minnesota State High School League, trophies won by a smaller amount of top-level athletes.
On the individual side, Hopkins junior Joe Fahnbulleh has posted the state’s best times in the 100- and 200-meter sprints. And he anchors the Royals’ 4x100 and 4x200 relays — the state’s fastest. Reid Pierzinski, a senior at Pequot Lakes, paces both the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles fields.
Two female competitors also have dual event mastery to their credit. Edina’s Emily Kompelien recorded the top times in the 800 and 1,600 while fellow senior Natalie Windels of Eagan leads in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles. East Ridge senior Allyson Weiss is poised to win a third consecutive triple jump title.
DAVID La VAQUE
They might have missed their original tee times, but is hasn’t hindered the state’s best golfers from turning in record-setting performances.
Chaska senior Lincoln Johnson fired a school record and personal best 7-under-par 65 to win a Metro West Conference event at the Chaska Town Course. He is the No. 1-ranked boys’ golfer in the state. He tied for fourth place in the Class 3A state tournament a year ago. The Hawks are also the top-ranked team in the state.
Red Wing junior Leah Herzog turned in a course record 6-under-par 65 last week at the Jewel Golf Club in Lake City. Herzog, who tied for seventh place in the Class 3A state tournament last season, is the top-ranked girls’ golfer in the state. The Wingers are in Class 2A this year.
Wayzata senior Tristan Nelko might not have set any records, but he still shot an impressive 5-under-par 137 to win the two-day Northwest Classic boys’ tournament at the Detroit Country Club in Detroit Lakes. He is ranked No. 3.
It’s hard to imagine that baseball teams are closing in on the 20-game allotment for the regular season a little more than a month after the largest snowstorm for the month of April in state history. The weather has continued to go from one extreme to another.
But one constant remains from past years: Class 4A, Section 2 will be the toughest to conquer come playoff time. Seven of the eight teams in the section have a winning record, five of which already have at least a dozen wins. Lake Conference powers Minnetonka, Edina and Eden Prairie are the best of the group, while none has overachieved more than Prior Lake and Chanhassen.
Lakeville North’s senior battery of pitcher Nathaniel Peterson and catcher Nick Juaire combined on an outstanding performance a week ago. The lefthanded Peterson threw a two-hit shutout with 20 strikeouts in a 6-0 victory over Apple Valley. Juaire hit two of his five home runs on the season in that game. He had eight RBI in a doubleheader earlier in the season.
The Panthers (Section 1) and Stillwater (Section 6), two of the preseason favorites, also will play a large role in determining the Class 4A state champion this year.
Last Saturday the Prior Lake girls’ lacrosse team ended Eden Prairie’s 64-game winning streak against Minnesota teams. But a state tournament rematch is no certainty.
More teams with legitimate cases for postseason success makes this season so intriguing.
Just reaching the state tournament means No. 2 Prior Lake likely must defeat No. 3-ranked Apple Valley in Section 6. Meanwhile, top-ranked Eden Prairie shares Section 2 with No. 5 Minnetonka.
Note to the upset-minded: Eden Prairie and Blake have combined to win all 11 titles since the state tournament began in 2007.
The boys’ side features last year’s state title game qualifiers, Benilde-St. Margaret’s and defending champion Eagan, holding two of the top three spots in the coaches ranking. The runner-up Red Knights began this week — the last one of the regular season — a perfect 11-0.
No. 1 Benilde-St. Margaret’s paces a strong Section 6 that includes No. 4 Prior Lake and No. 9 Rosemount.
Watch for a Section 4 title game showdown of No. 6 Mahtomedi and No. 12 Stillwater. Since 2010, Mahtomedi has won 11 consecutive games in the series.
DAVID La VAQUE