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AUSTIN EDITION - Riverland fate in ex-coach's hands

Past and present Riverland baseball coaches have had a hand in guiding the team to a precarious point in the season.

It's a season that's in a state of limbo. First-year coach Scott Koenigs did an admirable job of leading an under-manned team to a winning record in the Minnesota Community College Conference, South Division.

Yet, the fate of this season rests in the hands of former Riverland coach Dwight "Dewey" Kotila and his Ridgewater Warriors.

If Kotila's team can win this weekend's Region 13 Tournament and advance to the Junior College World Series, then Riverland will fill the void at the MCCC State Tournament. If no teams from the MCCC South advance, then the season is over for the Blue Devils.

Kotila's shadow

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When Kotila coached the Blue Devils, they once qualified for the JUCO World Series. Kotila then moved on after the 1998 season, and the Riverland program has been on a coaching carousel ever since.

Koenigs is the fourth baseball coach at Riverland since Kotila left, but Koenigs is a protege of the old coach. The former skipper still casts a long shadow over the Riverland program.

"I've known Dewey for a few years, and he's a good coach, so we're counting on them to win the region," Koenigs said. "We have a lot of confidence that they can advance and we can slide into their spot at the state tournament."

Even if the Blue Devils don't make it to state, Koenigs had a successful first season, especially considering there wasn't much depth in the lineup. Next season should be much better as Koenigs will have had an off-season in which to recruit more players.

Lady Devils host

Riverland softball coach Lisa Quednow-Bickler has effectively utilized area high school talent to create a winning program. The Lady Devils once again won the MCCC South title and will be the top seed at the regional tournament, which will be held in Austin starting on Friday.

One of the big reasons for the success of the Lady Devils has been pitcher Abbey Bergstrom. Last year, Bergstrom pitched the Blooming Prairie Blossoms into the section tournament, so she's been through the pressure of big games.

Bergstrom is the niece of pitching guru Ron Bergstrom, a former Austin High softball coach. Ron Bergstrom has also guided the career of current Austin pitcher Amy Kelly, who has led the Packers to a perfect record so far this season.

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It will be interesting to see if the Bergstrom legacy is enough to push the Lady Devils into the nationals.

Volleyball camps

While the spring sports seasons are winding down at Riverland, the volleyball program is looking ahead. Riverland coach Helen Jahr will be the host of a couple of volleyball camps this summer.

The first of these camps will run from July 21-25. This is for girls who will be entering grades four through six in the fall. The camp runs from 10 a.m. to noon each day, and the deadline for registration is July 14.

Session two of the girls camp will run from July 28 to August 1. This is for girls in grades seven through 10, and it lasts from 9 a.m. to noon each day. The registration deadline is July 21.

The final camp run by Jahr this coming summer will be August 4-8. This is for varsity teams, and the registration deadline is July 28. All of the camps will be in the Riverland Gym on the Austin East campus.

Scott Kolb is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. He writes a weekly Tuesday column and can be reached at skolb@postbulletin.com

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