Adapted softball teams Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka and St. Cloud each won a state championship their coaches never imagined possible.
Both the Robins and Sluggers won their final games 10-7 on Saturday at Coon Rapids High School. The Robins captured their first Physically Impaired division crown since winning six consecutive titles from 2009 to ’14. St. Cloud, its adapted softball program dormant the past seven seasons due to a lack of funding, earned its first Cognitively Impaired division championship.
Concerned about his team’s defense from the season’s start, Robins’ coach Marcus Onsum hoped for a consolation title at the state tournament. Instead, the Robins (10-2) used defense to win a championship. They held Anoka-Hennepin (10-3) to four or fewer at-bats in three innings.
“These kids were bound and determined from day one that they were going to be able to execute every play in the field that they possibly could,” Onsum said.
Pitcher Sam Roles, an eighth-grader, helped his own cause. He got a called third strike on a Mustangs batter with bases loaded in the bottom of the third inning.
Anoka-Hennepin, which crushed defending champion Dakota United 11-1 in the semifinals, scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut the Robins’ lead to 8-7. Tyler Ezell drove in two of the runs and scored one.
“We were a little sad,” Roles said.
Anoka-Hennepin won two of the teams’ three regular-season meetings due in part to the Robins “kicking balls away in the seventh inning,” Onsum said. Not this time. The Robins added two runs in the top of the seventh then shut the door in the bottom of the inning.
“That crisp, clean 1-2-3 inning to close it out was exactly the way it should have been,” Onsum said, crediting players such as Brendan Bosker-Elliott, Vincent Luu and Andy Hanson for shoring up the defense.
St. Cloud (10-2) found success at the plate, scoring three runs in the first, second and fourth innings. The top of the lineup, Tyrell Franck Cross, Jordan Williams, Brian Jones and Dayton Wienjes, combined for eight runs and four RBI.
A team with little softball experience endured with Jones called “a couple of fumbles” during the season. He said that a focused yet fun vibe made the difference Saturday as the Sluggers capped an improbable championship run.
Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville (11-3), which dispatched defending champion North Suburban in the quarterfinals, got a three-run homer from Natalya Rawley. But St. Cloud’s defense put out five Blazing Cats runners at third base and nailed another runner at home plate.
Jones made most of the plays himself, snaring ground balls and tagging out runners.
“We finished second in floor hockey so we knew we had some players that have some skill,” Sluggers coach Mike Bakken said. “But I was so surprised to win a game this year let alone make it to state.”