Defending adapted softball state champions Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka and St. Cloud Area bring undefeated records into their title defenses.
The Robins (7-0) find success with their defense in the physically impaired (PI) division while St. Cloud (10-0) hopes to justify its Sluggers nickname in the cognitively impaired (CI) division. Quarterfinals of the 30th adapted softball state tournament begin Friday, with semifinals and finals scheduled for Saturday, at Coon Rapids High School.
“Our ability to shut other teams down has really been key,” Robins coach Marcus Onsum wrote in an e-mail. His teams have won seven state titles since 2009. “We have had a couple games where it looked like our opponents were going to get their bats going … but our group stuck together and did a great job of eliminating scoring opportunities.”
Junior shortstop Vincent Luu was the defensive catalyst this season. The slick-fielding Luu had more than 70 balls hit his way yet committed just three errors.
“He makes all the routine plays and somehow even manages to make the nearly impossible plays look easy, too,” Onsum wrote.
Two additional keys to the Robins’ success are the multifaceted Sam Roles and Calvin Gerdt.
Roles, the winning pitcher in the final as an eighth-grader last spring, carries a 6-0 record and 1.35 ERA into the tournament. When Onsum desires a different look to keep the opposition off balance, he calls in Gerdt (1-0, 2.15 ERA) from center field.
“That has given us a lot of flexibility to adjust to different matchups or to make changes based on how the other teams are hitting against us,” Onsum wrote.
The duo can hit, too. Gerdt is batting .857 with five triples, Roles .560 with a team-best 15 RBI.
Another PI Division athlete to watch is Dakota United senior Riley Wisniewski, a St. Paul Downtown Lions Club Male Athlete of the Year finalist.
St. Cloud has scored at least 10 runs each game this season. Senior first baseman Dayton Wientjes is batting .781 with 25 RBI and seven home runs. That gaudy batting average is only third best on the team behind freshman left fielder Nick Goff (.969) and junior pitcher Jordan Williams (.865).
Before winning its title last year, St. Cloud’s adapted softball program was dormant for seven seasons because of a lack of funding.