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State softball tournament begins Thursday

The Eagles of New Life Academy of Woodbury in Class A are the only returning champions. A new champion will emerge in Class AA because Park Center, the 2010 and 2011 champion, moved up to Class AAA this year and didn't even make the section tournament. Hastings, the 2011 Class AAA champion, was beaten by Farmington in the section semifinals.

Four teams are making their debut appearances at this year's tournament, all in Class A -- Cherry (singly without a co-op), Eden Valley-Watkins, Red Lake Falls, and Sebeka.

All three classes of the tournament will be conducted at Caswell Park in North Mankato on Thursday and Friday, June 7 and 8.

Class A Quarterfinal Highlights (All games Thursday, June 7)

(Note: None of the Class A qualifiers played each other during the regular season.)

(Section 5) Eden Valley Watkins (16-7) vs. (Section 1) Blooming Prairie (20-3) @ 11:00 a.m. --The Eagles of Eden Valley-Watkins are making their first tournament appearance. They scored 153 runs this season while allowing opponents 95 and bat .331 as a team. Junior pitcher Baylee Lahr compiled a season record of 15-5 and threw 80 strikeouts in 129 innings. Her ERA is 2.90 and she also boasts a batting average of .348, including 3 home runs. Senior catcher Brooke Scherer, with a batting average of .452, hit 2 home runs this year and tallied a team-leading 18 RBI and .452 batting average. The Awesome Blossoms of Blooming Prairie, fourth last year, are making their third consecutive and overall appearance. The team scored 176 runs and held opponents to 51 while hitting .356 as a team and limiting opponents to 134. Senior Tricia DeBoer has a team-leading 45 hits and .495 batting average. Junior pitcher Shelbi Swenson struck out 209 batters in 156 innings and has a 1.032 ERA. Swenson also swatted four of the team's six home runs this season and helped her cause with 22 RBI.

(Section 8) Red Lake Falls (22-4) vs. (Section 2) New Ulm Cathedral (20-4) @ 1:00 a.m. -- The Eagles of Red Lake Falls have qualified for the first time and scored 246 runs this season and held opponents to 115. The Eagles are led by senior Britta Glass with a team-leading .542 average and 50 hits. Eight different players have driven in 15 or more runs, led by junior Kayla Schmitz with 38. Junior Rachel Berdahl is the leader on the rubber, going 18-3 with 108 strikeouts in 128 innings pitched. The Greyhounds of New Ulm Cathedral are making their third consecutive and 13th overall appearance. They took consolation honors the last two years, but won titles in 1993 through 1995, 2003, 2005 and 2007. This year the Greyhounds scored 226 runs on 275 hits and they have a team batting average of .391. Senior Amy Eckstein bats .483 for New Ulm Cathedral and junior Lisa Helget hit .475 with a team-leading 38 hits. Senior pitcher Ali Brey, who went 13-3, struck out 112 in 97 innings and has an ERA of 2.60.

(Section 7) Cherry (23-0) vs. (Section 3) Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (24-0) @ 1:00 p.m. --The last two years, theTigers of Cherry had Cotton as a cooperative partner and finished second in 2011. The Tigers batted .401 as a team this year and outscored their opponents 250-33, hit 12 home runs and stole 36 bases. The team provided no individual hitting statistics. Senior pitcher Shaina Novak compiled an 18-0 record, with 141 strikeouts in 110 innings pitched and has an ERA of 0.958. The Fighting Saints of Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg are making their second consecutive and fourth overall appearance and finished third in 2011. The Fighting Saints outscored their opponents 239-25 this year and they bat .401 as a team. Junior pitcher Samantha Dunn compiled a season record of 9-0 and a 1.170 ERA. But her bat provided a team-leading .593 average, including eight of the team's 27 home runs. Junior Courtney Olson and senior Ellen Johnson contributed 75 and 71 RBI, respectively, plus seven homers each.

(Section 6) Sebeka (21-4) vs. (Section 4) New Life Academy of Woodbury (16-7) @ 1:00 p.m. --The Trojans of Sebeka are making their first trip to the state tournament. They outscored opponents 191-101 and hit .383 as a team. They also like to run, having stolen 71 bases this season. Senior Jessica Lillquist is hitting .544, including a team-leading 31 RBI on 49 hits. She batted .800 in the section tournament. Junior Brett Brockpahler went 20-3 from the rubber, struck out 179 in 153 innings and has a 2.33 ERA. The four-time defending champions from New Life Academy of Woodbury are making their seventh consecutive and overall appearance. The Eagles scored 161 runs and gave up 102. They, too, like to run and stole 61 bases. There are no seniors and just two juniors on the squad. Thus, ninth-grader Valerie Hohol is the team leader, hitting .446 on 33 hits and 24 RBI, and going 15-5 as the leading pitcher, striking out 125 in 131 innings and has a 2.96 ERA.

Class AA Quarterfinal Highlights (All games Thursday, June 7)

(Section 3) New Ulm (20-2) vs. (Section 1) Kasson-Mantorville (23-2) @ 9:00 a.m. -- The Eagles of New Ulm are making their sixth appearance and first since 1997. They split a pair of games against tournament qualifier Maple River during the regular season, dropping the first 1-0 and winning the second 7-1. New Ulm outscored opponents 194-49 while hitting .364 as a team and limiting opponents to hitting .155. Their offensive firepower included 21 home runs. The Eagles provided no individual statistics. The Komets of Kasson-Mantorville are making their third appearance and first since 1990. Their last regular season game was a 5-0 win over Maple River. The Komets provided no team or individual statistics.

(Section 6) Albany (19-1) vs. (Section 2) Maple River, Mapleton (18-6) @ 9:00 a.m. -- The Albany Huskies return for their second consecutive and fifth overall appearance. They are the only team in this class to return from last year's field, having finished sixth. This year's team compiled a .322 batting average and outscored its opponents 162-44. Senior Lisa Keppers leads the team with a .507 batting average on 34 hits, including 4 home runs. Senior pitcher Karli Persson compiled a season record of 18-1 and tossed 189 strikeouts in 127 innings and has an ERA of 1.54. The Eagles of Maple River earned titles in 1992, 1996 and 2001, and are making their 13th appearance, their last in 2008. Maple River provided no team statistics. Junior Makayla Rahn is the leading hitter, batting .438 on 35 hits and 19 RBI. She also pitches, went 12-7, struck out 139 in 131 innings and has a 0.960 ERA.

(Section 8) Hawley (16-3) vs. (Section 4) St. Anthony Village (2-3) @ 1:00 p.m. -- The Hawley Nuggets return to tournament action in their second consecutive and third overall appearance. Last year they competed in Class A and finished sixth. This year's team compiled a .369 batting average while holding opponents to a .200 batting average and outscoring them 159-59. The team also had 60 stolen bases. Ninth-grader Haley Cederberg leads the team with her batting average of .511 and her 22 RBI on 24 hits. Senior pitcher Jessy Noreen compiled a season record of 11-1 with 78 strikeouts over 71 innings and has a 1.76 ERA. The Huskies of St. Anthony Village are making their fifth appearance and scored 239 runs to their opponents' 42, batting .362 as a team. Junior Mary-Clare Couillard is one of the offensive leaders with her .568 batting average on 46 hits. Senior Becca Bates went 15-1 toeing the rubber, struck out 100 in as many innings for a 1.19 ERA. She also is hitting .400.

(Section 5) Mound Westonka (16-9) vs. (Section 7) Cloquet (16-6) @ 1:00 p.m. -- The White Hawks of Mound Westonka earned a title 1997 and are making their fifth appearance, with their last in 2009. The team batting average is .300. Two of the White Hawks pitchers also provide offensive firepower. Sophomore Emmi Christensen, 4-2 with a 2.85 ERA, is hitting .358 and has a team-leading 23 RBI. Senior KatieJo Delisle, 12-7 with a 2.75 ERA, is hitting .446 and has 4 home runs. Junior Brooklyn Pouti is the slugger. She has stroked 8 home runs and also drove in 23 runs on 35 hits. The Lumberjacks of Cloquet are making their second appearance and first since 2002. The team is hitting .314. Six players have compiled 20 or more hits. Senior Dalyce Gustafson has the most with 27 and a .360 average. Senior Kayla Masessa has the highest average of .415. Sophomore Chandler Beaupre went 13-9, striking out 93 in 153 innings and has a 3.02 ERA.

Class AAA Quarterfinal Highlights (All games Thursday, June 7)

(Schedule Note -- To accommodate commencement ceremonies: Any second-round game involving Bloomington Jefferson will be played Thursday, June 7, at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Field 5. Any second-round game involving Forest Lake will be played Thursday, June 7, at approximately 2:00 p.m. on Field 6)

(Section 4) Stillwater Area (18-8) vs. (Section 1) Farmington (17-4) @ 9:00 a.m. --The Ponies of Stillwater Area are making their eighth appearance and first since 2008. The Ponies earned titles in 1995, 1996 and 1998. Stillwater Area provided no team or individual statistics, but did lose a pair of games against tournament qualifier Forest Lake, dropping the first 10-6 and losing the second 1-0. The Tigers of Farmington are making their second appearance, their last in 2003. The Tigers are hitting .306 as a team and outscored opponents 148-61. Senior catcher Allison Rice powers the offense with her team-leading .458 average and 24 RBI on 33 hits, including 4 home runs. Farmington provided no pitching statistics.

(Section 3) Bloomington Jefferson (17-2) vs. (Section 2) Mankato East (24-3) @ 9:00 a.m. --The Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars are making their second consecutive and overall appearance, having won the 2011 consolation title. They lost a 4-3 game to tournament qualifier Maple Grove. The team provided no team or individual statistics. The Cougars of Mankato East are making their third consecutive and 16th overall appearance. They placed third last year in Class AA and seek a fifth title to add to their championships in 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1991. The Cougars scored 163 runs while holding opponents to 47 and they have a .331 batting average. Junior Savannah Quandt wields a heavy bat, slugging 8 of the team's 15 home runs. She also leads the Cougars with her .438 average, 37 RBI and 39 hits. Senior Nicole Ries is the primary hurler (23-2) and struck out 248 in 158 innings and has a 1.03 ERA. Ries also contributes with her bat, hitting .346, including 2 home runs.

(Section 8) Big Lake (14-7) vs. (Section 5) Maple Grove (22-2) @ 11:00 a.m. -- Big Lake is making its eighth appearance and first since 2008. The Hornets bat .341 as a team. Ninth-grader Jaiden Lund has the most innings, 111, and struck out 61 for a 2.27 ERA. She also owns the team-leading .458 batting average. Junior Jenna Stein and sophomore Sam Kuhlow are hitting .447 and .438, respectively, and Stein has knocked 6 round-trippers and Kuhlow added four. The Crimson of Maple Grove are making their third appearance, their last in 2010. The Crimson defeated Bloomington Jefferson 4-3 in early May. Maple Grove hits .338 as a team, with junior Abby Bunnell leading the offense with her .440 average and team-leading 33 hits. Senior Mandi Mauch has 31 hits for a .403 average and drove in a team-leading 18 runs. Senior Cayli Sadler went 22-1 toeing the rubber and has a 0.75 ERA.

(Section 7) Forest Lake (23-1) vs. (Section 6) Orono (23-1) @ 11:00 a.m. --The Forest Lake Rangers are making their fifth consecutive and 11th overall appearance. They were the 2011 runners-up, shut out 4-0 by Hastings. Two of their wins, 10-6 and 1-0, came against Stillwater Area. This season the Rangers batted .325 as a team and had 133 RBI on 215 hits. Opponents were held to 48 runs while they scored 148. Junior Jennifer Zidar has the best batting average of .405 for Forest Lake; including a team-leading 28 RBI on 32 hits. Junior Michelle LaCasse is 12-0 on the season and has a 0.88 ERA. The Spartans of Orono are making their third appearance. They won a title in their last appearance in 2008. The team bats .362 and scored 180 runs while holding opponents to 36. Sophomore Rebekah Smith is the offensive leader with her .494 average and 35 RBI on 42 hits. Junior Samantha Hartmann is 15-0 on the season, striking out 125 in 90 innings and has a 0.690 ERA.

Friday's Schedule

Following Thursday's quarterfinal games, the Class AAA semifinals (both championship and consolation) are scheduled for 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. (with the exceptions noted above). The Class AA semifinals will be played at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. The Class A semifinals will be played at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

The consolation championships for all three classes will be played at 9:00 a.m., followed by all third-place games at 11:00 a.m. The Class A championship will begin at 1:00 p.m. The Class AA title game will start at 1:30 p.m., and the Class AAA title game will begin at 2:00 p.m.