Softball: Top-ranked teams are top-seeded teams in section tournaments
The best teams in the Hiawatha Valley League are the best teams in their respective sections.
That is, they're the best according to the seedings for the Section 1A and 1AA tournaments, which are scheduled to begin today.
HVL champion Kasson-Mantorville, the No. 1-ranked team in the state, is the top seed in West Subsection 1AA. The KoMets are the two-time defending subsection and section champions, and they were the runners-up at the Class AA state tournament last season.
K-M (20-0) is led by junior pitcher Maddie Damon, who has struck out 228 batters this season and 1,165 in her high school career. She is just 14 strikeouts away from breaking the state record of 1,178, according to the Minnesota State High School League record book.
Damon is 18-0 this season as the KoMets have allowed an eye-popping total of just six runs through 20 games.
K-M dethroned Zumbrota-Mazeppa two years ago as the top team in the section, but Z-M is no pushover. The Cougars are 15-2, ranked No. 5 in the state and boast a nice mix of veterans, including senior pitcher Carley Henning, and youth, including junior catcher Tayler Mort and sophomore pitcher Morgan Olson.
Mort and Olson were First Team All-State players last season, while Henning was Second Team.
Z-M's two losses this season came against K-M (4-2 on May 6) and the No. 5-ranked team in the state in Class A, Hayfield (8-4 on April 22). Z-M is the only team to score more than one run against K-M this season.
Stewartville, at 12-5, is the No. 3 seed in the subsection. The Tigers are receiving votes in the state poll.
• In East Subsection 1AA, No. 9-ranked Spring Grove/Caledonia earned the top seed by compiling a 14-1 record this season. SG/C is led by junior strikeout machine Sam Bratland, who averages 13.8 strikeouts per game (152 in 11 games pitched). Its only loss this season came in the second game of the year, a 4-0 setback against Chatfield.
Winona Cotter, a 10-time section champion, is the No. 2 seed 1AA East. The Ramblers have won 10 of their past 12 games entering the playoffs, losing only to SG/C and Z-M in that stretch. Cotter won state titles in 2003 and 2006 and went to state nine times in the 10-year stretch from 2000 through 2009.
Plainview-Elgin-Millville, one of the top-hitting teams in the area, is the No. 3 seed in the subsection. The Bulldogs are led by seniors Alyssa Hofschulte and Josie Montgomery, and sisters Haley and Paige Gudmundson.
HVL runner-up Hayfield boasts one of the state's top hitters in senior infielder/cathcher Dani Wagner. She was batting .727 with 11 home runs and 35 runs scored as of last Tuesday. Sophomore Grace Mindrup is also a key part of a powerhouse order, with two home runs and 28 RBIs.
The Vikings are 14-3 and the top seed in West Subsection 1A.
Randolph (14-3) is the No. 2 seed, followed by Kenyon-Wanamingo (8-11) and four-time defending section champion Blooming Prairie (8-8).
• In Section 1A East, No. 9-ranked Fillmore Central/Lanesboro earned the top seed, with a 12-2 record. FC/L is led by pitcher Morgan Malley, who is 9-1 with a 0.99 ERA. She's also the team's top hitter, with a .425 average.
No. 2 seed Wabasha-Kellogg (13-6) and No. 3 Chatfield (12-6) will push FC/L for a spot in the Section 1A final four.
W-K is led by Mateya Nagel (.440 average, 4 home runs, 21 runs scored) and Adrianna Baab (.420, 16 RBIs). Chatfield has two of the top hitters in the area, Janessa Erding (.564, 22 hits, 16 runs) and Shelby Bernard (.537, 29 hits, 14 RBIs).