by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Maple Grove defended the Northwest Suburban Conference championship with wins over top 10 teams Elk River and Anoka last week.
The Crimson edged Elk River 6-5 May 13 and blanked Anoka 1-0 in nine innings May 15 to improve their conference mark to 9-0. Maple Grove, who also beat highly-ranked Eastview in the week, is 15-1 overall and ranked No. 2 in the state coaches poll.
Sophomore Sydney Smith has been outstanding in her first season as Maple Grove’s ace pitcher. She is 13-0 with a .49 ERA and 124 strikeouts. She has also been the team’s most potent hitter, batting .550 with 26 RBIs. In the win against Anoka, Smith delivered the game-winning hit.
“Sydney has been on fire both hitting and pitching,” Maple Grove coach Jim Koltes said.
While Smith has lived up to the billings as one of the state’s top players, Koltes added that she is one of many Crimson who have stepped up to help Maple Grove excel this spring.
“Sammi Sadler has chipped in well with pitching and the bat,” Koltes said. “She is 2-1 pitching and hitting .406 at the plate while playing great defense. Jordan Mauch has been more than outstanding behind the plate and at the plate. She has had countless big hits and has been our best player in the field with what she does while catching. She has two home runs on the year and multiple big hit games. Abby Bunnell, Sarah Southorn and Taylor Bratten have been on fire at the plate of late and Bri Besel has been a solid glove at short stop. Tess Wilner has done a great job in left field and Taylor Meyer and Sarah Michal have held down the job at third base with those big shoes to fill left by Mandi Mauch.”
Ever since the season began, the Crimson have set their sights on making another big post-season run just like they did last year when they finished second in the state. Coming so close last year is an extra motivation for the Crimson.
“We want to win the conference first, then win the section and go to state and take it from there,” Smith said. “We are hoping we can do it. I think we have a good chance.”
The Crimson have achieved the first goal of repeating as conference champs and they have received the No. 1 seed in the section tournament. Maple Grove will face Osseo or Champlin Park in the section quarterfinal round Thursday, May 23. The semifinals are Tuesday, May 28, and the championship game is Thursday, May 30. All games are at Rice Creek Park in Shoreview.
Section seedings are: 1. Maple Grove, 2. Irondale, 3. Spring Lake Park, 4. Coon Rapids, 5. Mounds View, 6. Rogers, 7. St. Michael-Albertville, 8. Osseo, 9. Champlin Park, 10. Centennial, 11. Park Center, 12. Totino Grace.
“We are getting ready to play playoff softball once again,” Koltes said. “The season seems so crammed in. We are trying to take time to enjoy it.”
Contact Bob San at [email protected]