|Wednesday, April 26, 2000|
|Better Late than Never?!?!|
|I was gone from the state from the moment I wrote the last word in my last column till Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m., so I apologize for not getting a fresh column up sooner. Remind me never to leave town again! There is just too much catch-up work when you get back. Plus, I feel so out of touch with what's going on in local sports, so it's always a challenge to get back to speed. I'm not there yet.|
Since golf season is here I thought it would be fun to update you on how Eric Ecker is doing his senior year at the University of South Carolina. The Gamecocks are the 23rd ranked team in the country in Men's Collegiate Golf. They just finished play in the 61st annual SEC Championships and took fourth place out of twelve teams. Their 880 total through three rounds was just three points behind third place Mississippi State. Georgia, the 4th ranked team in the country, won the event with 852 strokes, two in front of second place Auburn. South Carolina had the best team round of all the teams on Sunday, the final day of the tournament, to move up to fourth place.
Individually, Eric fired a 72 on Sunday and had a 225 total for three rounds, placing him in a tie for 29th place in the tournament. His total was the third best total on the team. Eric's per round scoring average of 73.40 is second to teammate Kyle Thompson and he is tied with Thompson with 9 sub-par rounds this season. Eric's top individual finish was a 7th place tie at the Golf World Tournament. He also tied for 11th at the Taylor Made Red River Classic where he recorded his best round of the season, a 64. His other top twenty finish was a tie for 18th place at the Ping/Golfweek NCAA Preview.
Ecker has had a tremendous career at South Carolina, including medalist honors at the 1998 SEC Championships. He has three college golf events remaining. The Maxwell at Ardmore, Oklahoma May 13th and 14th, the NCAA East Regional Championships in Scranton, Pennsylvania May 18th through the 20th and the NCAA Championships (if he qualifies) in Opelika, Alabama May 31st through June 3rd.
The great thing about golf is that Eric will still be able to compete in many top amateur events across the country and can now think seriously about possibly pursuing the pro tour, which would mean qualifying school. Next time I have the opportunity to visit with Eric we'll get an update on his plans. Right now, he's planning on finishing his collegiate career with a run at the NCAA Championship.
Eric deserves everything he's achieved in the game of golf. This young man has spent hour upon hour working on his game. He is extremely dedicated and disciplined, two qualities that are necessary for success in the highly competitive sport he has chosen. Even with all his success he has remained approachable. I have seen him on many occasions visiting with some of the young golfers at Pebble Lake during the summer months. In fact, my youngest son, Ben has approaced Eric on a few occasions and he has always been happy to help. I hope Eric goes out with a bang! His two individual state titles and a second place finish in the Class Double A meet are still very impressive records at Fergus Falls High School and always will be something for the high school golfers to take aim at.
|Wednesday, April 19, 2000|
|A Special Event|
|Cal Ripken, Jr., a true ambassador of the game became the 24th player in the history of Major League Baseball to get his 3000th hit when he laced a single to center off Hector Carrasco of the Twins on Saturday night. One of the great things about that hit was the fact that a former teammate and a fellow member of the 3000 hit club, Eddie Murray, was the first base coach. He was able to be the first to congratulate Cal and welcome him to the club. Plus, Murray had also gotten number 3000 at the Metrodome. Another member of the club, Paul Molitor, was seated in the Twins dugout. Ripken stayed after the game to sign autographs for about a half an hour, satisfying all of those folks waiting for him to sign for them. |
I saw Murray's hit in person at the dome, but my most special memory of 3000 hits was Rod Carew's hit on August 4th, 1985. I was in Anaheim. I had planned my vacation for this week during the previous off season using a formula that took into consideration Rod's hit totals for his previous five years and took account of his being a year older and possible more likely to take a little longer to accumlate hits. I planned it well. Rod was four hits shy when I arrived for the final game of a series with Seattle, which preceded a weekend series with the Twins.
The Angels Public Relations department was very helpful in my planning for this special occasion. Since I worked for a radio station then allowed me to request credentials for one of the three games that weekend. Not having a clue where Rod would be at when I made the request, I decided on the Sunday game, the final game of the trip, thinking that he either would have reached the 3000 mark going into Sunday or would have a good chance at doing so on that day.
Well, as luck would have it (or fate), Rod needed one hit on that Sunday. I spent two hours before the game on the field watching Rod and the Angels and Twins take batting and fielding practice. I talked to Tony Oliva while standing against the batting cage for about twenty minutes. We talked about the years he and Carew spent together as roomates and he marveled at Rod's ability with the bat (Tony wasn't too bad either). While I was watching and visiting, Rod was being interviewed by Jim Murray of the L.A. Times between his turns in the batting cage. It is a moment frozen in time for me.
Rod got his hit at 1:44 p.m. Anaheim time off lefty Frank Viola (not yet a Cy Young Award Winner or World Series MVP). It was a typical Carew hit, a slasher to left field for a single. The ovation was great! The fact that he accomplished the feat against the team he starred for for 12 years was even better. I still get goosebumps when I think of it.
Following the game, my press pass allowed me access to the Angels clubhouse for the press conference. My pass stated "NO AUTOGRAPHS". Right. I wasn't shy as I approached my boyhood baseball hero after he had completed the press conference. I told him I had always been a big fan of his and had planned my vacation to follow him around the league when he got close to 3000 hits. He signed my scorecard adjacent to his hit.
The story doesn't end there. During the off season, the Twins Winter Caravan came to Fergus Falls. I was asked to be the emcee for a noon luncheon at the Elks Club and Frank Viola was one of the Twins players on the caravan. Before I introduced Don Cassidy from the Twins office who would be introducing the players, I asked Frank to come forward and I told the story of my trek to Anaheim the previous summer. Viola then obliged my request to sign his name beneath Rod's in the historic scorebook. I felt very fortunate and still do. It's a keepsake that I'll never let go of. A memory that will always be there, and a romantic part
|Saturday, April 15, 2000|
|The NFL Draft is BIG. I mean it is BIG. ESPN has made it bigger than ever with their comprehensive pick-by-pick coverage through the first two rounds. I can't watch it very long ... and I'm a football fan. I just get brain overload from all the information that is being thrown at me from all the "experts". When your team doesn't pick until #25 in the first round it really seems to drag.|
In an offseason that has 99.9% of the Vikings fans questioning what in the world is going on in the world of Denny Green, the hope of a good draft was something to cling to. So, is it a good draft so far? Who knows?!? Until the Vikings get to camp we won't know the answer to that question, and maybe we won't know the answer until mid-season or later. Let's take a look at what the Vikes have done through the first two rounds of the 2000 NFL draft.
With their first pick, the 25th overall, they chose 6-2, 305 pound Defensive Lineman, Chris Hovan from Boston College. Hovan was a consensun All-American this season and an All-Big East player the past three seasons. According the Pro Football Weekly, he has played nose tackle and defensive tackle and is a great competitor. They say he has exceptional eyes and very good initial quickness plus he plays with great hustle and determination. Sounds good! There's no doubt the Vikings need defensive line help and maybe Hovan will be part of the answer.
In round two, the Vikings had back-to-back picks. With the 55th overall pick they chose 6-3, 312 pounder Fred Robbins from Wake Forest. Like Hovan, Robbins is a defensive lineman and a four year starter. He has excellent size and good initial quickness. The one negative that kind of jumps out at you is the label of "underachiever". Inconsistency in his effort. That's scary.
With the 56th pick overall the Vikes stayed with their defensive line strategy and chose 6-3, 274 pound defensive end Michael Boireau from Miami. Pass rushing is his strength but he's weak against the run. Has shown improvement over the past two seasons with the Hurricanes after playing two years at Northeast Mississippi Junior College.
One of the foremost draft experts in the country is Mel Kiper, Jr. of ESPN. Neither of the second round picks were in his top 60 picks and he had Hovan ranked as the 4th best d-lineman. In his mock draft, he had the Vikings taking defensive back Ahmed Plummer of Ohio State. He went to San Francisco on the pick before the Vikings selection.
The Vikings need a lot of help and it's obvious that Denny Green is concentrating on the defensive line early on. What direction will he take now? Will he concentrate on the defensive secondary? The number of prospects still available is dwindling rapidly. The offensive line is another area that needs shoring up, but nine of Kiper's top ten offensive linemen are gone, too.
Which of this year's draft picks will make the loudest impact in the NFL in the 2000 season? As Viking fans let's hope it's Hovan!
A baseball note. Cal Ripken, Jr. just got his 3000th career hit. It was a single to center at the Metrodome off Hector Carrasco. Ripken's third hit of the night. He and his first base coach, Eddie Murray, along with Dave Winfield are the three players to reach that milestone at the Dome. What a tremendous career for Ripken, one of baseball's nice guys. I love this game!
|Sunday, April 9, 2000|
|One More High School Basketball Weekend|
|Fergus Falls senior Janna Davis suited up for one more weekend of high school basketball this past Friday and Saturday. The 6-3 future NDSU player was a member of the 3A All-Stars in the Minnesota All-Star basketball series. Her team lost to the 4A All-Stars 53-50 on Friday night and then beat the Class 1A All-Stars on Saturday by, according to Janna, about 17 points. Davis scored 5 points in the game on Friday at St. Thomas and 6 points in the game on Saturday at St. Cloud Apollo. "I felt I played pretty well. It was a tremendous experience to play with and against the great athletes on those teams," said Davis.|
Fergus Falls sophomore Ryan Miller participated in the Select 16 hockey series April 1st and 2nd and is now waiting to hear if he is one of the players chosen to tryout for the final 20 spots on team Minnesota that will host the National Select 16 tournament. Miller's team, coached by Otter Coach Brad Bergstrom and former Otter assistant Larry Goos, won two of three games finishing as the consolation champions. Miller scored a goal and recorded two assists as his team beat the 1A/1AA team 5-4 in overtime and defeated the 2A/3AA team 3-2 in the consolation championship game. They dropped a 2-0 decision to the 7A/7AA team in their opening game. Coach Bergstrom is high on Miller's chances at making the final cut, "there's no question Ryan was one of the top players in the tournament. I thought he played very well." Miller played for the Select 15 Minnesota team at the national tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan, last year.
Kent Bothwell's Spartan baseball team is really on a roll! They have won six in a row and are undefeated in conference play after sweeping Vermilion on Saturday. The Spartans didn't commit an error in either game of their double header and again got some great pitching as Jack Chapin and Tim Nelson each threw complete game victories. FFCC scored 23 runs and had 21 hits in the two games. They will host Itasca in a double header next Saturday beginning at one o'clock.
The Perham swim team earned the title of Section 3A Academic champions, compiling a grade point average of 3.28. Sophomore Drew Pawlowski set a Perham High School team record with a time of 1:03.33 in the 100 yard breaststroke at the U of M Aquatic Center in the State Class A swim meet. It was his best time ever and earned him a 9th place finish. Pawlowski was selected as team MVP and was named a captain for next season. Senior Andrew Stolee finished 15th in the one-meter diving event at state and was named the best team member. The Yellowjackets placed 24th as a team out of 64 Class A squads at state. It was their best swimming season ever.
Twins fans, plan to join us for our weekend bus trip July 15th & 16th to see the Twins battle the Cubs and the Cardinals at the Metrodome. The Cubs series ends on Saturday night with a 6:05 game and the Cardinals series begins on Sunday at 1:05. This will be a great weekend of baseball. Our bus will leave at noon on Saturday and we'll spend the night in a Twin Cities hotel. Packages start at $99.00 (quadruple occupancy). E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you all the information to register for the trip. Come and join us! It isn't often we get the opportunity to see the two premier sluggers in the major leagues at the Metrodome. The first forty people signed up and paid by May first will be on the bus! E-mail me today!
|Wednesday, April 5, 2000|
|So Far, So Good|
|Don't you love it when a sports team does things they are not supposed to do? Like the Twins ... winning, especially the way the have the last couple of nights? Two straight comeback victories. Wednesday night's 10-7 win was as good a comeback effort as I've seen in quite awhile in a major league game. After scoring once in the eighth and twice in the ninth on Tuesday night to beat Tampa Bay 6-5, the Twins found ways to push six runs across the plate in the eighth inning to tie the Devil Rays 7-7 and then won the game on Matt Lawton's ninth inning three-run homerun, 10-7. It's especially satisfying to diehards like me because of some of the so-called experts, the media people, who have been highly critical of this team before they even started the season. They had already labeled them as a team that didn't have the ability to come from behind. One went so far as to say that if this team were down one or two runs it was over. I guess that's not the case! True, the season is young, but the experiences this team has had already will only help them throughout the year. When you win games like they have the last couple of nights, you can't help but believe you are always in the game, even when you fall behind 7-1 with two innings to play. The starting pitching has not been very impressive yet, but I believe they'll get some good outtings from their starters. One thing is certain, when you win those exciting games, the fans in attendance will be back! By the way, e-mail me at email@example.com for information on our Twins trip July 15th and 16th. The opportunity to see Sosa and the Cubs, and McGwire and the Cardinals is filling up fast! Departure is 12 noon on Saturday with a return to Fergus Falls right after the Sunday game, which starts at 1:05 p.m. That means we should be home before eight p.m. Sunday. It should be a tremendous opportunity to see two of the games top sluggers! Spread the word!|
Phil Link is optimistic about the Otter baseball team. There's no question they are in a tough section! As usual, any one of six teams could realistically challenge for the Section 8AA title. Link feels that the Otters will be right in the hunt with Brainerd and Moorhead perhaps the top challengers. Alexandria, Detroit Lakes and Bemidji will all be very good teams, also. Link has some good veteran leadership and probably as balanced a pitching staff as he's had in Fergus Falls. Tim Erickson, Justin Arneson, Eric Anderson and Troy Wasiloski give him a solid right-handed staff with some experience. Throw sophomore lefthander Ryan Hendrickson into the mix and I think this will be a staff that causes opposing hitters lots of problems. Good competitors! The lineup should produce some runs, too. With Arne, Tim, Josh Anderson, Ben Brimhall and Chad Hopponen providing the most pop. These guys have played a lot of baseball through the years and met with some good success. As in all levels of this great game, you only go as far as your pitching takes you, and I believe the Otterse have the pitching to go a long ways. Stay tuned! Varsity home games will be played at Legion Field at DeLagoon Park with the "B" team using the Middle School Field.
Terry Harrington cut off sign-up for track and field this past Monday and wound up with 60 boys! That's an all-time high for Harrington and he's a little worried about uniforms! They don't have sixty! I guess that's a nice problem to have. The high numbers is a direct reflection on the impact of Harrington teaching at the high school and having a chance to be in contact with high school kids on a daily basis. Terry is a very positive guy and has a way of making everyone he talks to feel good about themselves. He is one of those genuine nice guys and kids love him as a coach! Add Niki Welde on the girls side and you have a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm going in a great program! Plus, with Paul Zosel and Fuzz Noreen rounding out the coaching staf, the experience is a very positive one for the athletes. Look for some good performances from these teams and a real possibility for the girls to challenge for the true team title in Section 8AA.
The Hillcrest baseball team has some potential for success this spring. Nine seniors are out for Carl Selvig's squad and they have played a lot of baseball through the years. Dusty Christenson (SS) Bill Nelson (C-P) and John Kilde (CF-P), give this team strength up the middle and any baseball coach will tell you how important that is! They will most likely be the offensive catalysts too. Doug Wester (3B-C) and Nate Stoltenow (1B-P) will give the Comets solid corners on the infield and provide them with some depth on the mound and behind the plate. Another all-around athlete, Jake Carr will hold down second base and there's some depth in the oufield with seniors Brandon Moline, Matt Moore and Hickory Smith, juniors Donavan Rogness and Michael Struck, sophomores Josiah Larson, Luke Hansen (also an infielder) and Zach Tysdal (also a catcher), and freshman Matt Draxten (also an infielder). Junior Josh Nordtvedt will do some pitching and play first base when Stoltenow is on the mound. This sounds like a pretty salty bunch!
Softball teams interested in playing in one of the Fergus Falls leagues need to be registered by April 14th. The cost will be $425.00 for 17 players, and $26.00 for each additional player. All league fees must be paid before you play. To assure your team a spot in the league, a $50.00 deposit will be required at sign-up. League materials can be picked up at sign-up time. If you have any questions, please call the Park and Recreation office at 739-3205 between 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Ashby girls basketball coach Terry Miller has provided us with the final stats for the season and senior Andrea Balgaard was the leader in scoring (16.4 ppg) and rebounds (8 per game). She also made 49% of her field goal attempts and 66% of her free throws. Point guard Erica Evavold had 3.7 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Kelly Koplin (8.5 ppg and 5.8 rpg), Cassie Benson (8.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and Megan Stierlen (6.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 61% on free throws) were also among the statistical leaders. Ashby shot a respectable 43% from the floor and finished the season 16-8, tied for second in the Little 8 with Rothsay at 9-3.
Pebble Lake Golf Club opened last Saturday (April 1st) and I'd like you to check out our Pebble Lake Golf Club page on the site. There's lots of information concerning the course and the upcoming season including rate fees, events scheduled, an introduction to the pro and a weekly column from Brock Swanson, course and pro shop info and lots more! League play begins in May, so get those rounds in to establish your handicap! High School meets begin in mid-April.
Attention Fred Evenson and all you other Masters Fans out there. Check out the great piece by Chris Wasberg on the Masters. It's our current 'Blast from the Past'. My pick this year, Tiger Woods. It should be fun to follow all the action. I know you'll enjoy Was' look back at the great traditions and accomplishments of this prestigious event.
See you at the course!
|Sunday, April 2, 2000|
|HIT - Quite an Event!|
|49 Teams took part in the 34th Annual Hillcrest Invitational Basketball Tournament. The Tournament was played at four different locations, including Hillcrest Lutheran Academy, FFCC, FFHS and the Fergus Falls Middle School. For results you can check our Minnesota Motor Company Scoreboard and for more information on the tournament check out the Service Food Special of the Day . Mary Dolan had some fun visiting with Mark Levang on the history of the tournament. There is also a free throw shooting contest in each of the four divisions. FFCC guard Daron Anderson won the Division I title this year hitting 23 of 25, Nick Otto from Nampa, Idaho made 22 of 25 to win Division 2A, Scott Peterson from Minot hit 21 of 25 to win Division 2B and Josh DeFries won Division 3 by making 21 of 25 free throw attempts. The Moorhead (#1) team, coached by former Comet and Spartan Scott Colbeck, lost to the Fergus Falls #3 team which featured Otter players Tim Erickson, Titus Christianson, Andy Larson and Luke Draxten, along with Hillcrest player John Kilde and Hillcrest grad Dan Scheid. Rumor has it that if Colbeck would have been healthy it might have been a different story, but Scott had to sit out with a broken finger. Levang and Richard Risbrudt are to be commended for their efforts to make this annual event a tremendous one! The business sponsors of Fergus Falls are to be thanked for their involvement also. A lot of dollars are spent in Fergus Falls over this weekend every year with families coming from all over the country to watch their relatives in action and renew acquaintances at the HIT.|
Tough luck for Otter senior high jumper Andy Nelson. Andy will miss the entire track and field season due to tendon problems below his kneecap. An MRI revealed the damage and Andy will have two separate surgeries to repair the tendons. Doctors have told him that it will take about three months to rehab the knee and that he will be able to participate again next spring. Andy is planning on attending NDSCS in Wahpeton, which has a fine track program.
Four Minnesota wrestlers made All-American Status at the recently completed National Wrestling Tournament in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To earn that honor, wrestlers needed to place in the top eight in their weight class, not an easy thing to do as their were 761 competitors from around the country competing, making for 65-75 wrestlers per weight. West Central Area's Billy Morgan took eighth at 145 and had to win six matches in a row on Saturday to do so. He finished 7-3 over the weekend and was wrestling down a weight from the high school season. Josh Luneburg from New Ulm was fourth at 103, Lucas Christianson from Apple Valley was sixth at 125 and Jordan Holm from Northfield was fourth at 189. Last yar, Jacob Volkman of Ottertail Central was an All-American, finishing seventh at 145. Volkman is a redshirt freshman at the University of Minnesota.
In my last column I told you about Dan Harris being selected to the 1999-2000 NAIA Men's Basketball Scholar Athlete team. He was joined on that team by a couple of other area athletes. Former Pelican Rapids standout Lance Roisum, a junior at Mayville State, majoring in Business Administration had a GPA of 3.67 and Matt Amundson from Rothsay, a senior at Mayville State with a Business Administration major, carries a GPA of 3.94. I saw Dan at the Spartan baseball games on Saturday and visited with him for a few minutes. He's playing left field for Valley City State's baseball team, after playing third base last season. He said he's making the adjustment fine and is enjoying the season so far. The team played some exhibition games in Texas in mid-March.
As I lament the loss of a Fergus Falls radio home for the Minnesota Twins, I am excited to tell you that John Gordon has agreed to continue our Talkin' Baseball segment of Talkin' Sports on AM 1250 - KBRF every Monday at 7:20 a.m. It wouldn't be possible without the sponsorship of Svingen, Athens, Russell, Hagstrom and Haugrud. Thanks to them there will be at least some Twins representation on Fergus Falls radio! Also, in the abscence of the Twins, Lakes Radio management has decided to pursue an aggressive schedule of local baseball games (much to the delight of Sports Director Jeff Swedberg and me)! 37 high school and American Legion games are on the schedule, starting with the Thursday, April 6th game against Alexandria. Check out the schedule on the Lakes Radio page.
The Twins season begins Monday with the first of four games against Tampa Bay. It's good to have baseball back and I'm optimistic that the Twins will win 75-80 games this year. Our seats for the July 15 and 16 games against Sammy Sosa and the Cubs and Mark McGwire and the Cards are going fast! For more information e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll e-mail the info back to you! We have 40 seats available and our packages start at $99.00 per person, quadruple occupancy. This price includes game tickets, motor coach transportation and hotel accomodations in the Twin Cities. We'll leave at noon on Saturday the 15th and return following the 1:05 Sunday game, putting us back in Fergus Falls between 7 and 8 p.m. Hope to see you on the trip as we watch the Twins battle against two of the best power hitters in Major League history.