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Back in the spring of 2012, Denfeld had one of the best softball teams in the area. Not only were the Hunters good, a legitimate threat in the sectional tournament, but they were fun to watch. Among the reasons was the 1-2 pitching punch.
Denfeld had a senior left-handed power pitcher named Nikki Logergren who could be overpowering, but who also could alternated and stay in the lineup as Denfeld’s best power hitter. The Hunters also had Sarah Hendrickson, a year younger but a competitive pitcher with an always upbeat attitude who had come to Denfeld when the Red Plan eliminated her chance to lead Central to prominence. Together, the two of them assured Denfeld of having a well-pitched game.
Logergren, also an outstanding hockey player, went to St. Scholastica where she could try to play both sports. Hendrickson stayed behind and did her best to pull the Hunters through that next season. Then she chose to attend Wisconsin-Superior. She pitched there as a freshman, struggled as a sophomore, but has come on strong in this, her junior year.
Last weekend, St. Scholastica beat Crown College on Saturday, 3-0 and 10-5, to win its eighth consecutive Upper Midwest Athletic Conference championship. Logergren, who contributed a double to the first-game victory, and hit a home run and two more doubles in the second game. She now has 23 home runs for her career, second-most in Saints career history.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin-Superior has wisely joined the UMAC, and the Yellowjackets finished 13-3 in league play behind the 15-1 Saints by sweeping a doubleheader 9-0 and 12-1 over Crown College. Sarah Hendrickson pitched both games for the Yellowjackets, striking out seven with a 5-hitter in the first game and striking out four with another 5-hitter in the nightcap. That boosts Hendrickson’s record to 18-6 for her junior year.
That makes Thursday the magic day for Twin Ports softball, because the UMAC tournament will be starting that day at Kenwood Park with the Saints as host. Wisconsin-Superior will face Northwestern College in the 2 p.m. opener, with St. Scholastica facing the winner of the play-in game between Crown and Minnesota-Morris at 4 p.m.
The Saints, who have won eight straight UMAC season titles, and have at least shared in 19 of the last 20 titles, will be the overwhelming favorite, although it will be their first try under new coach Rilee Dawson. She took over for Jen Walter, who moved about six blocks east to take over the UMD program. Walter and the Bulldogs will be off to start the NCAA Division II regional, also on Thursday.
All I want to see is that some time during the double-elimination tournament St. Scholastica will have to play Wisconsin-Superior. It will be like old times, with a twist, to see Nikki Logergren swinging that big left-handed bat against Sarah Hendrickson’s pitching.
East Finds Way To Win
Duluth East’s strong season in high school baseball was in jeopardy against Hibbing Monday at whatever they now call Ordean Field at the new Duluth East High School that used to be Ordean Middle School. Or something like that. Anyhow, it’s a great new ballpark.
The teams battled to a 1-1 standoff through four innings, but then East showed its ability to find a way to win. First, with one out, an opposite-field pop fly down the left field line fell magically amid Hibbing’s hustling third baseman, shortstop and left fielder for a double. A ground out moved the runner to third. Then Nathaniel Benson hit a grounder and was safe on an error that allowed the go-ahead run to score.
Benson stole second, and came around to score on a hard smash down the right field line. A final single to center finished a three-run rally, and East won 4-1.
Wild Alumni Star In NHL
One of the pleasures of watching the high-intensity NHL playoffs is to look for Minnesotans playing for the various teams.
Among those who are standing out are Matt Cullen, who has contributed solid, two-way play at center for the Pittsburgh Penguins in their battle with the Washington Caps in the second round. Cullen was let go by the Wild, you may recall, because they thought he was too old and out of gas. Now he is flying, beating defensemen 1-on-1 at age 39, and winning face-offs. It prompted me to say that ever since the Wild let Matt Cullen go, they’ve needed what he could bring them.
The St. Louis Blues have a tough, two-way center named Kyle Brodziak. You might remember him. The Wild let him go, too. And while Cullen and Brodziak are playing serious roles in the Stanley Cup, Wild followers are grumbling that the Wild need another really solid counterman, or maybe two.
One of the best stories in hockey is the emergence of Brent Burns as a standout defenseman for the San Jose Sharks. We’re told that Sharks management was perplexed the way the Wild management was about what could bring Burns to full boil. The Sharks decided it was important to go all out to find a partner for Burns, and they came up with ex-Gopher Paul Martin, former Elk River star. Burns raves about how easy it is to play with Martin, and Martin praises the emergence of Burns.
The New York Islanders, meanwhile, have a couple guys named Clutterbuck at wing and Zidlicky on defense who would look good if they were still wearing Wild colors. And Nick Leddy, the key man on the Islander power play point, was drafted out of the Gopher lineup by the Wild.
Wild fans, when not complaining about lacking a center or two, also grumble about the need for one more solid, offensive-minded defensemen. Do we think Burns, Leddy and/or Zidlicky would fill that need?