The Hermantown Hawks have a rich tradition with 19 state appearances while the Pequot Lakes Patriots are hoping to start a tradition as state regulars after qualifying for the first time this season.
The two teams will meet in the Class AA quarterfinals at 11 a.m. on Thursday, June 6, at Caswell Park Fields in North Mankato.
“We didn’t get an easy draw as Hermantown has been to state a lot,” Pequot Lakes coach Bret Sergent said of the Hawks, who won state titles in 1991, 2002 and 2009, “but I don’t think we will be nervous, just because of the way we won the section (rallying through the loser’s bracket by winning close games).”
The Patriots’ have played as well as any team in the state the past two years by compiling a 40-3 record.
“The key is we played a lot of softball over the summer the past few years,” Sergent said. “Last year’s seniors started that tradition, and the juniors this year kept it going. Those three grades really get along, and have played a lot of games.”
Sergent added that another key to the Patriots’ success is having “good pitching.”
Katie White and Lindzee Johnson have provided that admirable pitching. White, a junior, was 15-2 overall with a 1.11 earned-run average and 143 strikeouts in 114 innings. Johnson was 4-0 with a 0.70 earned-run average and 11 strikeouts in 20 innings.
Pequot Lakes also has compiled impressive batting averages, including having five regulars with a batting average over .429. The top average among regulars is Kayla Miller with a .452 average in 42 at bats, but her season is over after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during a recent elite summer basketball game.
Other hitting leaders are White at .438; outfielder Jessica Kreitz .433, third baseman Hannah Zimmerman .433, and Haley Wiebolt .429. White has six homers while Kreitz has four. White also has a team-high 29 RBI while Johnson has 24 and Kreitz 23. Wiebolt has scored 29 runs while Kreitz has scored 23. Kreitz also has the team lead with nine stolen bases.
“Pequot is a true unknown to us,” said Hermantown coach Tom Bang, whose squad returns to state after a one-year absence. “We haven’t played them (recently) or any of their opponents. But any team that gets to this level has to be a quality team with quality athletes. We, like any team in the tournament, have to focus on our fundaments first.”
The Hawks, 21-3 overall, are led by Katie Thun, who has compiled a 17-2 pitching record, and is hitting .444 with four homers.
Other quarterfinal matches include: Kasson-Mantoville (22-2) vs. St. Anthony Village (23-3), defending state champion New Ulm (20-3) vs. Maple River (18-4), and Fergus Falls (14-10) vs. Rockford (16-3).
Semifinal and consolation games are scheduled for 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 6. The championship, third place and consolation final are scheduled for Friday, June 7.