Nobody better: Cottage Grove softball team wins state championship
Last year, one of the many Cottage Grove youth softball teams earned third place in the state tournament. This year's goal for the team was to win the whole thing.
The Cottage Grove Athletic Association Under-12-year-old Green softball team, coached by Tony Young, Niel Perryman and Chuck Newton, won the Minnesota Metro Fastpitch League fall ball state championship last week in the Tier 1 bracket of the eight-tier tournament earning the right to call themselves the best U12 softball team in the state.
"Ten of the 11 players were returning from our 10U team that took third place in state," Young said. "Our goal was to take first place then and we worked hard, but came up short. This year, we did it. It was very exciting."
In a tournament fielding the top 16 U12 girls softball teams in the state, Cottage Grove beat Anoka 6-5 in the state championship game of the MMFL Tier 1 tournament, held at McKnight Fields in North St. Paul. The Wolfpack was 18-1-1 on the year and scored a total of 156 runs, while allowing only 29 runs.
"The girls were understanding situations a lot better and were running the bases a lot better," Young said. "We put the ball in play and got extra bases out of it. We were just a better team this year."
Young said a little sacrifice also led to the state tournament championship title.
With an early start time for the first game of Cottage Grove's state tournament, the players decided to forgo the Park Homecoming football game and festivities the night before.
The decision paid off as Cottage Grove beat a previously undefeated White Bear Lake team 7-0 in the opening round. Starting pitcher Delaney Young, who was 11-0 on the year, threw a no-hitter with 11 strikeouts, setting the tone for the rest of the tournament.
"They needed to be dedicated to their teammates and make sure they were prepared and didn't let their teammates down," Young said. "They needed to get to bed early, wake up early and make sure they weren't sleeping when they got to the field. They made the sacrifice to ensure that they were ready to go. There wasn't any crying about it. They knew that if we were going to win, this was going to give us our best opportunity to win."
Young, a Park graduate himself, was proud to say "100 percent" of the players on his team live in the current Park High School boundary. Though All-Star club teams start at the Under-14 age group, he said he hopes the team will stay together into high school.
"We're a very, very good team," Young said. "The sky is the limit for these guys. We keep them together and good things are going to happen."
The state title gives Cottage Grove a paid trip to a national tournament. The MMFL provides one paid berth for each age group Tier 1 champion at each level (10U, 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U) to either ASA or NAFA 2013 Northern National Tournaments.
The state championship culminated a seven-week season that began with practices in the middle of August.
"I'm absolutely proud of them," Young said.