Thole: Ponies softball team caps another fine season

The Stillwater softball team enjoyed another successful season while capturing the Section 4AAA championship to make its second straight trip to the state tournament. (Gazette staff photo by Stuart Groskreutz)

The Stillwater softball team enjoyed another successful season while capturing the Section 4AAA championship to make its second straight trip to the state tournament. (Gazette staff photo by Stuart Groskreutz)

It’s always hard to end a sports season if you are a player, coach or fan, but it’s especially tough if you are the defending state champions.

I’m sure that Ponies softball coach Bob Beedle and his fine section champion squad (20-5) will bear me out.

Starting things off, the Ponies lost a 3-1 heart-stopper to Prior Lake (17-4) in eight innings on June 6. Ponies ace pitcher Hannah Heacox held the Lakers to four hits, but the locals could manage only two of their own.

The hit by Haley Balzart was a home run that tied the score at 1-apiece in the sixth inning.

Junior Lauren Jordan hit a double for the only other hit yielded by Prior Lake ace pitcher Morgan Rykken. The Lakers scored a pair of runs in the top of the eighth, but the locals couldn’t answer.

The Ponies didn’t have time to lament as Bloomington Jefferson (17-7) was lurking in the shadows. Stillwater was more comfortable at the plate this time out as it managed six hits off Jaguars pitcher Hannah Evavold. Our opponents, however, had a huge three-run first inning and that proved to be enough for a 3-2 win that sent the Ponies home.

Rachel Hartwig went 3 for 3 against Evavold, including a double, and Heacox had a double in her three at bats. Rachel Rhode was 1 for 2 at the plate and Carlie Hart added a base hit.

On the bright side, state champion Elk River (21-3) is coached by former Ponies star and SCVAA Hall of Famer Stacy (Schoenrock) Sheetz, who played on Ponies’ state championship teams coached by Mike Pavlovich in 1995 and 1996. The Elks also won a state title under Stacy in 2009.

Heacox was recently named Minnesota’s Gatorade Softball Player of the Year and Metro Player of the Year by the Star Tribune. She was also named to the All-Pioneer Press Team after striking out more than 500 batters in her five-year career.

Congrats to coach Beedle, his staff and the Ponies for another fine season.

 

Usual suspects top Ponies

After whipping Elk River/Zimmerman/Rogers 17-8 in the quarterfinals — should the Ponies get three wins for that? — Stillwater played Blake in the state semifinals last week at Chaska High School.

The Ponies’ (15-4) only losses this year were to the state champion Bears (17-3) and third-place winner Eden Prairie (17-2).

The locals received three goals from Kate Sheely and two each from Remi Larson and Carter Sanderson and another goal from Emma Wiessner, all unassisted, in a 13-8 loss to powerhouse Blake.

With third place on the line, the Ponies faced Eden Prairie, which is the only other team that beat Stillwater in the regular season. The Eagles were upset by Lakeville North 13-12 in overtime in the other semifinal.

The Ponies lost to Eden Prairie 13-8, the same score as their contest with Blake. Scoring for the Ponies were Sanderson, Wiessner and Katie Casto with two each and Dana Almquist joining Sheely with a goal apiece.

Marie Bonine, Sheely and Sanderson represented the Ponies on the All-Tournament Team.

When the smoke cleared, the Bears remained atop the lacrosse mountain with a 14-12 thriller over Lakeville North. I think that Blake has now claimed the gold six times in eight years, with Eden Prairie doing the same the other two years since the MSHSL began sponsoring the state tournament.

That doesn’t leave much for the other girls in the state so getting a piece of the action is a worthy goal.

 

Today’s Sports Trivia

Name the former Ponies three-sport athlete from Bayport who later became Athletic Director at the Air Force Academy. He was captain of the Falcons’ football team during his playing days at AFA.

 

In the huddle

Your performance in athletics can never dictate your attitude, but it should be a reflection of your attitude. This will help maintain your efficiency during the season and the various obstacles you will encounter. Basic to all you do is the firm belief of doing it right, because a championship is obtained by uncommon people who thought they could — and did — because they captured the spirit and enthusiasm that is the heart of the Stillwater Ponies…. Ponies track and cross country coach Scott Christensen has 10 Minnesota State High School League state titles to his credit. That adds up to five in each sport — and don’t forget, our thinclads have won the section title 23 of the last 32 years…. SAHS golfer Sam Sicard placed eighth (72-79—149) in the state tournament at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids last week. Teammate Evan Anderson was further back (75-87—162) in 48th place. The section champion Ponies squad placed eighth at the girls’ state meet with 724 strokes. Edina won with a score of 644 and Alexandria was next at 655. Celia Kuenster of Cretin-Derham Hall was denied a three-peat with her 144 total that was surpassed by individual

Former Ponies football player Ross Halverson, left, married Ellen Hutchinson in the Memorial Chapel at Fort Snelling on June 8.

Former Ponies football player Ross Halverson, left, married Ellen Hutchinson in the Memorial Chapel at Fort Snelling on June 8.

state co-champs Sarah Burnham of Wayzata and Kenzie Neisen of New Prague, who tied at 140. Stillwater’s golfers were Erin Thiets (84-83—167), Leah Kroening (87-91—178), Anna Kaul (98-90—183), Maddie Luoma (99-97—198, Amanda Wolf (108-100—208) and Katie Clark (107-110—217). The Ponies have appeared in 13 state tournaments in 33 years…. The answer to Today’s Sports Trivia is three-sport Ponies star Mike Quinlan…. Former Ponies gridder Ross Halverson and the lovely Ellen Hutchinson were united in marriage on June 8 in the Memorial Chapel at Fort Snelling. There was a first-rate reception later at Stillwater’s historic Lowell Inn. The couple currently resides in Mahtomedi…. Former Ponies long-time assistant football coach Dick Klein, his twin brother Tom — a former SAHS football stat man —

Long-time Ponies assistant football coach Dick Klein, left, joined twin brother Tom, right, and Bill Suko in catching a nice stringer of crappies on Lake Alexandria last week.

Long-time Ponies assistant football coach Dick Klein, left, joined twin brother Tom, right, and Bill Suko in catching a nice stringer of crappies on Lake Alexandria last week.

and White Bear Lake’s Bill Suko had great luck catching 12- to 14-inch (alleged, but unofficial) crappies at Lake Alexandria last week…. Karen and I took in “War Horse” at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis last night — what a treat! Every time I hear the term war horse I think of the mighty Stillwater Ponies…. Considering Stillwater’s success in boys’ track through the years, it’s surprising to note that the good guys only hold three records at the 45-year-old Pony Classic track meet. SAHS thinclads have the records for the Luke Watson 1,600-meter relay (17:44.13) set in 2004, the JoeSamSamuelson 4×400 meter relay (3:22.8) set in 1997 and the oldest of the trio — the Jim Ratte 900-meter intermediate hurdles relay set in 1988 (2:03.1)…. A somebody was once a nobody who wanted to and did…. finis

 

Today’s rumination #623

Getting old is tough, but it doesn’t last long.

• • • •

George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Thursdays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: georgethole@gmail.com

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